D.C. Draws Wal-Mart into Democrats’ Political Battle over Wages

August 21, 2013 | | The Washington Times |

It’s high drama and riveting politics these days as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s most thoroughly red-state retailer, charges deep into blue-state territory in its efforts to expand beyond its comfortably established realm in rural America and suburbia by moving into the often hostile territory of inner cities.

Wal-Mart is causing a suspenseful split and high tensions between Democratic leaders in its latest battleground of the District of Columbia, pursuing a polarizing battle plan that succeeded before. The company is forcing the city to “take it or leave it” by threatening to pull up stakes and not build as many as six stores in the most hard-strapped areas of the city if it is required to pay a special elevated minimum wage under a bill passed by the city council. D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray is considering defying a solid majority of the city council with a veto of the bill. [...]

Wal-Mart is “ground zero” for what’s ailing the global economy, Ms. Dehlendorf said. “It’s why workers are so passionately committed to changing things at Wal-Mart. It’s really the most important thing we can do to change the economy today.”

Labor activists have been touting a study by the liberal think tank Demos that found that if the average retail worker’s salary was raised to levels akin to those in the D.C. wage bill, it would be a boon for the economy, lifting 700,000 people out of poverty in the first year and, by increasing workers’ buying power, increasing retail sales and enabling businesses to add another 130,000 jobs. A University of California, Berkeley study showed similar results, finding dramatic potential benefits for workers from raising average wages from about $15,000 to $25,000 a year, while the cost for the typical Wal-Mart shopper would be only $12.50 more a year in higher prices on their purchases.

Read the full report: Retail's Hidden Potential: How Raising Wages Would Benefit Workers, the Industry and the Overall Economy