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Controversy Over Wal-Mart In D.C., MD.

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By Cathy Duchamp

The Baltimore Planning Commission this week will decide whether to approve the framework that would allow construction of a Wal-Mart on the city’s northside. Wal-Mart also wants to open a store in D.C., the debate in both cases pits low prices against competitive wages.

Baltimore’s Remington neighborhood already has stores where you can buy things like milk and duct tape. But they aren’t as cheap as Wal-Mart, says Danielle Jones.

"And right now things are really really hard, and Wal-Mart really makes it easy for me to provide for my family, " says Jones.

The concern is that low prices translate into low wages for Wal-Mart workers. That’s why a coalition of groups will ask the Baltimore Planning Commission to mandate a so-called living wage as part of the zoning approval for the retail site, close to 11 dollars an hour. Jones isn’t opposed to that, but she wonders if it’s necessary.

"Right now I don’t think people are worrying about minimum wage, they need a paycheck," she says.

In Chicago, Wal-Mart agreed to pay workers competitive wages to get construction permits. Labor activists call it a sign that low prices and fair wages are not mutually exclusive.

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