Editorial: D.C. Wal-Mart stores would benefit residents


In the nation's capital, a large retailer plans to build six major stores in underserved areas — three are already underway — creating up to 1,800 jobs and bringing in tax revenues. It's the kind of investment you'd expect city leaders to welcome.

Instead, the D.C. government has come up with a plan to force the retailer to pay workers $12.50 per hour, an increase of $4.25 over the minimum wage. The result may be a pullback by Wal-Mart, and the loss of jobs and low-cost shopping options for residents in areas that would greatly benefit from the company's investment.

Such is the strength of the hate-Wal-Mart attitude.

Bend residents may remember the local outpouring of that same mindset in the mid-2000s, when Wal-Mart proposed building a large store at the north end of Bend on U.S. Highway 97 at Cooley Road. The plan was blocked by traffic issues, but not before the anti-Wal-Mart chorus had plenty of chance to sound off.

In D.C., the city council came up with the “Large Retailer Accountability Act,” to impose the “living wage” requirement in a way that targeted Wal-Mart by grandfathering other retailers who fit its description and exempting those where workers are represented by unions, according to a report in The Washington Post.

The company has run into similar resistance in other large cities. In Chicago, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley vetoed a similar living-wage measure, the Post reported. In New York, compromise was eventually reached involving tax subsidies for companies that hire seasonal workers, as Wal-Mart does.

Critics complain about Wal-Mart's purchasing and employment policies, although plenty of other companies have similar approaches. But Wal-Mart has become the focus of anxiety about corporate power and influence.

In the conflict in D.C., Post reporter Mike DeBonis wrote, “elected officials have found their reliable liberal, pro-union political sentiments in conflict with their desire to bring amenities to underserved neighborhoods.”

The stores thrive because they provide products and prices that shoppers want. That's the essence of a free-market system, and city leaders need to focus on real benefits, not partisan hype.