Want to see pure altruism in action? Go to Washington, D.C. — not to the marbled buildings of the federal government, but to the real city, where ordinary folks live.
There you’ll find a business organization that wants nothing more than to serve the people, help improve lives, and be a generous neighbor. That selfless organization is Walmart. With six big-box stores planned for D.C., the corporation’s regional manager wants people to know that Walmart’s intentions truly are philanthropic. We wish only “to bring more jobs, shopping options, and fresh food choices,” he recently declared, “as well as to expand access and opportunity,” create “a job-training program,” and “support nonprofits.”
Alas, though, this Mother Teresa of Global Retailing is now wailing that its generosity has been spurned by an impudent city council that says it’s not interested in corporate pretensions of “charity,” but in tangible fairness. Council members have had the audacity to pass a “Large Retailer Accountability Act” that would require Walmart to pay fair wages to its D.C. employees. The stipulated wage floor is $12.50 an hour, or about $25,000 a year in gross pay, which is not much in this very expensive city.
In response, Walmart threw off its altruism mask, revealing the low-wage, miserly scowl for which it is globally infamous. The nice regional manager turned nasty, sputtering that the giant retailer couldn’t afford such extravagance, and he threatened to abandon the city if the fair-wage law is not repealed.
“Afford?” Walmart is the most profitable corporation in America, bagging $17 billion in profits last year. Yet, it routinely pays its workers so poorly that they have to take food stamps and other support from us taxpayers. Hey, D.C. — tell ’em goodbye and good riddance.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.