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Holding the unemployed hostage

The city council of the District of Columbia is determined to keep Wal-Mart out. They’re seeking a premium on top of their already high minimum wage for Wal-Mart. Alone among retailers, Wal-Mart would be subject to this condition.

After pouring almost $4 million into charitable donations in the DC community and greasing the skips with political power brokers, this slap at the retail giant appears to be the last straw. Wal-Mart will not be bringing thousands of jobs to an area in which young people face an unemployment rate north of 30 percent.

Marion Berry, among others, has described Wal-Mart as trying to hold DC hostage by offering jobs at low wages. To teach them a lesson, the DC Council is now assuring Wal-Mart will offer no jobs and no wages.

This means they have diminished the prospects of thousands of young people for whom this may have offered their first chance at a job. And the catastrophic failure in D.C. to nurture jobs for the youth means they are likely to be at a disadvantage in the world of work for years to come if not their entire lives.

I know Wal-Mart jobs don’t pay that well. I worked there during college. But they provide that stepping stone that new employees need to learn basic skills and begin their networking with colleagues and bosses that may ultimately lead them to other employment. Many of these jobs are used as secondary sources of income for families, allowing one spouse to supplement the income of the other.

Some say, “WALMART is subsidized by the state!” because the jobs they offer don’t pay well. But you could argue that from that perspective, it is the state being subsidized by WALMART. They employ people that may not have other options. They give them dignity in employment and essential experience and training if other employment is going to be achieved.

Add to that the fact that WALMART’s low prices enable lower income people to purchase goods they might not be able to afford otherwise and you get the sense of how cruel the D.C. Council is being toward the community they supposedly intend to serve.

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