Activists for the Poor vs. the Poor


Last week, Michael Moynihan reported on a Whole Foods protest in the Jamaica Plains neighborhood in Boston in which activists defended local residents who never really asked to be defended, and in fact seemed okay with the store.

The Washington Business Journal reports on a similar fight over Walmart in D.C., where a consortium of activist groups have issued a long list of demands, including:

  • Pay every employee the D.C. living wage, currently $12.50 per hour.
  • Provide $50 a month in public transportation subsidy to every employee.
  • Employ at least 65 percent of its D.C. employees on a full-time basis.
  • Not ask job applicants about previous criminal convictions.
  • Use project labor agreements to construct its stores.
  • Fund all infrastructure improvements made necessary by its stores.
  • Provide free shuttle transportation to and from the nearest Metro station to each D.C. store every 10 minutes.
  • Commit to traffic alleviation studies.
  • Provide up to 2.5 free or low-priced parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of building space.
  • Provide secure, accessible bicycle parking, car sharing and bike sharing for workers and shoppers.
  • Not sell firearms or ammunition.
  • Employ no less than two off-duty D.C. police officers on its premises at all times.
  • Abide by a "code of conduct with regard to its employees' freedom to choose a voice on the job without interference."
  • Fund workforce training programs for D.C. residents, and use training programs as its primary avenue for hiring D.C. residents.
  • Hire at least 40 percent of its employees at each store from the ward in which the store is located.
  • Make "ongoing contributions to a fund managed by a council of community stakeholders" that will provide incentives and support to local small businesses.
  • Make ongoing payments for community funds controlled by "community advisory councils" for education and faith-based programs.

Meanwhile, the Washington City Paper points out that the actual residents living in the ward where one of the first of the four planned Walmarts is set to go up appear to be pretty excieted about the idea. The clash between poor people and the activists who claim to speak for them was also on display when Walmart tried to set up shop in Chicago, as I pointed out in a Daily Beast article a couple years ago.

In Chicago in 2006, a proposed Wal-Mart store met with fierce opposition from groups critical of its labor practices—a position just reiterated by Mayor Richard Daley. So instead, Wal-Mart opened in Evergreen Park, one block outside the Chicago city limits. The store received 24,500 job applications for just 325 positions, and now generates more than $1 million per year in taxes for the small town…

(Hat tip: Nick Cheolas)