Vincent Orange is one of the members of the District of Columbia City Council currently exulting in victory over the poor people of Washington. In an 8 to 5 vote, the council elected to prevent the "underserved" poor people of the District from getting fresh produce and other food, a wide variety of good quality products at affordable prices, and some 1800 jobs, many of them entry-level.
In short, the DC city council has defeated the mighty Walmart. After years of negotiations between the District and the company, which included commitments by Walmart to stock local products, fund transportation projects and create a job training program, among other things, the council passed a transparent anti-Walmart bill that would require all retailers with sales above $1 billion (wink, wink) and floor space above 75,000 square feet (nudge, nudge) to pay their employees a starting wage (they call it a "living wage") of $12.50 per hour or 50 percent more than the District's minimum wage. (Unionized companies were exempt, along with others grandfathered in.) Walmart had warned that it would abandon plans to open three, and possibly all six, scheduled stores if the measure passed.
"We don't have to beg people to come to the District anymore," Orange huffed.
No indeed. The poor people of the District of Columbia can well afford to be choosy. Other cities and states, such as Virginia (unemployment rate 5.2 percent) or Houston (unemployment rate 6.1 percent), might feel constrained to offer incentives and inducements for big employers. Not D.C. As Jarvis Johnson, a leader of "Respect DC," the organizer of the anti-Walmart movement, put it, "People won't take another bully joining Congress in disrespecting our voices and our priorities."
Just so. The District is practically inundated with offers of employment. That must be why the unemployment rate in D.C. is 8.5 percent -- and 20.3 percent among blacks. That must explain the 37.8 percent unemployment rate for black teens and the 43.3 percent rate for black male teens. It would explain why about a third of the District's residents are currently receiving food stamps, Medicaid or welfare -- and why more than 18 percent are living below the poverty line.
By all accounts, many of the neighborhoods in which Walmart had planned to open its noxious stores, like those in Ward 7, are places that lack outlets selling fresh food and other products. In some cases, the Walmart stores were to be anchors for whole new developments. Never mind.