Walmart opens its first two stores in the District

Walmart officially opens its first two stores in the District today. They are located in on H St. near Union Station and in the Brightwood neighborhood in Northeast D.C. These are the first of the six stores that Walmart plans to open in the District.

The openings come in the midst of ongoing national protests against the retailer’s minimum wage salary policy, the latest taking place on Black Friday, when nine protesters were arrested outside Walmart’s Alexandria store.

According to the representatives of Walmart, the opening of its six new locations will create as many as 1,800 jobs in the District. “People want jobs in D.C. We are happy to be part of the solution,” said Walmart spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg in an interview with Agence France-Presse.

However, opposing unions and activists claim Walmart’s wage policies are  unfair, and that the largest retail store in the country should be paying its employees more than the minimum wage.

“People do need jobs. But we need those jobs to be good jobs, and right now Walmart is driving the wage race to the bottom with other retailers,” said Mike Wilson, a member of the group Respect DC, to the AFP.

Some of the other criticisms brought against Walmart are poor work schedules and limited health insurance plans.

The opening of the six stores was largely pushed for by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, who, in mid-September, vetoed the Large Retailer Accountability Act bill, which would have forced Walmart to pay its workers a 50 percent premium over the District’s minimum wage. Grey’s veto took place after the Walmart threatened to cancel three of its planned store openings if the bill were to be passed.

Gray’s veto, however, didn’t stop the efforts to continue pushing for an increase in the minimum wage. Several council members, including mayoral candidate Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), presented their own versions of bills that provided alternative ways of increasing the minimum wage.

Yesterday, the D.C. council unanimously endorsed an increase of the minimum wage to $11.50 per hour. The council still needs to carry out a final vote and then send the bill to Gray for his signature.

Photo: Jobs with Justice via Flickr

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