Walmart will nix D.C. plans if forced to pay employees a living wage

Washington D.C. is considering enacting a new law called the “Large Retailer Accountability Act,” which would require retail chains with corporate sales exceeding $1 billion dollars a year to pay employees a living wage of $12.50 an hour. Walmart, the country’s largest employer– which had planned to open six stores in the D.C. area– has vowed to nix plans for three of these stores should these laws come to pass.

Alex Barron, a Walmart regional general manager, penned a positively nauseating op-ed for the Washington post, stating that the law unfairly “discriminates against business,” and, essentially, that D.C. residents should be thrilled at the prospect of all the great jobs Walmart could give them. Great jobs that basically pay nothing. The company clearly sees itself as doing people a great big favor by coming into their community. However, if D.C. is anything like Chicago, it’s likely that residents really don’t want them there in the first place.

Here’s the thing– we all pay for Walmart’s low, low prices one way or another– even if we don’t shop there. Walmart’s paltry wages are subsidized by social programs like food stamps and Medicaid, because there is literally no way that even the thriftiest human being could get by on them. A recent study showed that the company’s low wages cost taxpayers an average of $420,000- $900,000 per store a year. Meanwhile, Michael Duke, the company’s CEO, earns more in an hour than most Walmart employees will make in a year. The average CEO’s pay has increased by 725% since 1978, which is 127 times faster than worker’s pay has increased. These companies do not screw over their workers and pass the savings on to you, the consumer. They keep it for themselves and charge you whatever they think you are willing to pay for things.

Call me a crazy socialist, but I believe that a person working full-time ought to be able to support themselves and live reasonably above the poverty line. A person working full time at the minimum wage in this country will make $15,080 a year– if they’re supporting a child or anyone besides themselves, that is technically below the poverty line. It’s not just teenagers that are working these minimum wage jobs, either– 26% of our workforce makes below $10.55 an hour. If the minimum wage from the 70s had increased with inflation, the current minimum wage would be $10.71 an hour.

Walmart workers are banned from collective bargaining as well, which makes it easier for the company to keep wages down. As much as it’s easy to say “Oh, well, if they were paying their workers too little, then no one would take a job there! It’s the glorious invisible hand of the free market at work!,” it’s also crappy to take advantage of people in bad financial situations. It’s also not good for our economy when the CEOs of these companies are reaping the profits of these low wages. It’s likely that if Michael Duke gives himself a raise, he’s not going to go out and spend the crap out of it. He will probably save it. If you increase a low wage worker’s salary, they will likely spend a higher percentage of that, thus stimulating the economy.

I think it’s fair to say to Walmart that we, the taxpayers, do not want to help you subsidize your workers’ paychecks so that your executives can keep all that money to themselves. I think it’s fair to say that no, we don’t want your low, everyday prices if you are going to treat American workers as shabbily as you do. If every community did this, then Walmart would have no choice but to pay its employees a decent wage.