When Washington, D.C.’s city council passed an ordinance raising the minimum wage just for Walmart’s employees, Walmart threatened to pull five stores planned for the D.C. area — three of which were already under construction. But after Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the measure and the council couldn’t override it, Walmart went ahead with two of them, both of which opened last Wednesday.
People lined up around the block to get into the stores when they opened, many happy not to have to drive to Virginia or Maryland to find a Walmart. There was even the requisite small group of protesters at each location, decrying Walmart’s low wages and poor working conditions. But most were happy that the stores were finally open.
Shopper Pamela Scott said, “I will never go to a Walmart in Maryland again. I live in D.C. and that’s where I want to shop. I’m going to be here at least three or four times a week, as often as I can.”
Michael Ferrick, initially skeptical about Walmart, stopped in for some doughnuts on his way to work on Wednesday and commented, “This is a brand-new neighborhood ... and it’s pretty exciting. I mean, the whole city’s changing in D.C. ... everything’s new.”
Things may be changing in D.C., but not on the city council. The day after the openings, the council voted unanimously again to raise the minimum wage, only this time in stages, from the present $8.25 an hour to $11.50 by 2016, adjusting it for inflation thereafter.
Perhaps the real world of shoppers enjoying low prices, wide selection, and convenience, and employees happy to be working for the retail giant might be enough to make the city council reconsider. From Walmart’s own website come some “Economic Opportunity Facts” that resulted in more than 23,000 people applying for the 800 job openings in the two new stores:
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Photo of Walmart sign: AP Images