Protesters target Wal-Mart’s D.C. plans

About 50 protestors rallied outside of Wal-Mart’s Washington offices Thursday afternoon to ask that the chain agree to certain concessions before it opens its first stores in the District.

Standing on the sidewalk on Eighth Street NW, near Gallery Place, members of unions, community groups, churches and job-training organizations called on the company to agree in writing to a slew of requests, including that it pay all workers at its D.C. stores at least $12.50 per hour; hire D.C. residents for 75 percent of the 1,200 jobs it expects to create; and finance transportation improvements and other benefits.

The Rev. Howard Finley, assistant pastor of Florida Avenue Baptist Church, told those gathered that the chain should commit to a community benefits package that would support the city’s workers and small businesses. Last year, Wal-Mart announced four sites at which it would like to open its first D.C. stores.

“If you believe what you say is true, then you can put it in writing,” Finley said.

The company says the stores will offer competitive wages and opportunities for advancement to workers, as well as fresh groceries and other goods at low prices to shoppers, while generating tax revenue for the District.

“Unfortunately, some of the louder voices in this discussion just don’t represent the majority opinion of D.C. residents,” company spokesman Steven Restivo said in an e-mail.

Finley and other leaders behind the campaign, called “Respect D.C.,” entered the office building’s lobby to deliver their requests to Wal-Mart but were turned away by security.

They plan to mail the letter instead.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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