This is what a shakedown looks like, D.C. style.
In the midst of the greatest economic recession since the Great Depression, Wal-Mart announced it would open up four new stores, creating 1,300 new jobs and providing low prices for the poorest residents of the city. In the worst ward, unemployment has averaged 26.5%.
These tangible benefits did not concern a liberal anti-Wal-Mart coalition that formed that included labor unions. They issued a wish list of 17 demands that ran the gamut from requiring a minimum wage of $12.50 per hour, to free bike racks and free shuttles to each store every ten minutes.
The blackmail worked. Yesterday the District of Columbia and Wal-Mart agreed that the low-cost retailer would commit to give away $21 million to for hunger relief, health programs, education and job-training programs. The Washington Post described other shake-down details:
“Under the deal, Wal-Mart agrees to seek District small-and minority-owned businesses for construction of its stores; create and fund training programs aimed at populations suffering from high unemployment rates; and open hiring centers in the wards where the chain opens stores.
The chain also agreed not to sell guns or ammunition and to install bike-sharing stations and bike racks at its District stores — features that will distinguish the new stores from many of its others across the country.”
DC Mayor Vincent Gray (D) called the unprecedented mandates a good thing, saying ““Wal-Mart is showing what it means to be a good corporate neighbor, and I encourage other firms interested in doing business in the District of Columbia to show a similar level of commitment to our residents.”
If anything, the D.C.-Wal-Mart deal will frighten away other retailers. They now understand the steep price required to be a “good corporate neighbor” in the nation’s capital.