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Wal-Mart is among ‘Don’t block D.C. Progress’ backers

I still haven’t gotten a call back from the folks at “Don’t Block D.C. Progress,” a group organizing opposition to the “Large Retailer Accountability Act,” the big-box living wage bill that is getting a D.C. Council hearing next week.

But a representative for one of those large retailers acknowledged Thursday that his company — the largest retailer of them all — had a hand in its creation.

Steven Restivo, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said the global megaretailer was part of the coalition backing Don’t Block D.C. Progress. “It’s supported by Wal-Mart and others to better inform the discussion and set the record straight,” he said.

He declined to identify any partners: “I don’t feel comfortable naming names. I’ll leave it to other parties to identify themselves.”

Wal-Mart does not currently have any stores inside the District, but it has proposed opening as many as five here in the coming years. The first two could open later this year.

Despite its corporate backing, Restivo said, the group is mobilizing a crowd “representing a variety of age groups, ethnicities and business interests” to oppose the bill. Wal-Mart itself, he said, will submit written testimony opposing the bill and representatives may also testify in person.

“We expect a really strong showing from the community Wednesday” at the hearing, he said. “Actions that seek to block economic development are misguided, especially at a time when unemployment is still in double digits in some place and residents are still spending a billion dollars in the suburbs.”

Whatever the showing, the Don’t Block D.C. Progress folks are likely to face a big crowd organized by the bill’s supporters.

The Rev. Graylan Hagler, pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ and one of several activists and union allies organizing support for the bill, said he plans to pack the hearing room Wednesday with backers in matching T-shirts.

“This is a nice, conservative bill, as far as I’m concerned,” Hagler said. “It allows the city to continue down this road of economic growth and development. At the same time it says we want average working families in Washington, D.C., to take part in the economic boom going on all around us.”