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Commentary By Andy Shallal: Local Businesses Say No To Walmart

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With a charm offensive and an ad budget that is greater than the Gross Domestic Product of many small countries, Walmart is carefully orchestrating the roll out of four stores it wants to build in Washington, D.C.

With unemployment above 9 percent ,and an economy in need of a boost, some boosters are too eager to welcome a kind of big box Trojan horse.

Walmart promises cheap goods, jobs and economic development in areas that have been historically neglected.

What is there not to like?

Well, in a word: plenty.

Walmart's checkered history of labor violations, tax evasion and bad procurement practices speaks much louder than its promises.

Take jobs for instance. A 2007 study shows three jobs are lost for every two jobs that Walmart creates. And we're not talking good jobs with living wages and great benefits either.

The well-documented trail of its labor practices include racial and gender discrimination and poor working conditions.

Walmart's bullying procurement practices are legendary, driving manufacturers and wholesalers to bear subsistence with shareholder profits as the sole motivation.

Opening just one Walmart store would have a profound effect on D.C. Imagine four.

Some would reason that our most vulnerable neighborhoods, where the stores are planned, are desperately underserved.

Others argue that low prices are necessary for low-income families.

Yes, we do need economic development. But Walmart's traditional poverty-level jobs are not the solution. They will continue to depress wages and labor standards and deepen the ranks of the working poor.

Community leaders and local business owners have started to organize to stop Walmart from coming to D.C. These stakeholders are not lulled by Walmart's newly-polished image.

Rather than giving in to Walmart's assault, we need a sustainable economy: innovative local businesses, better tax incentives, improved infrastructure and a more prepared work force.

Local, independent businesses give a neighborhood character. And they create more local jobs, pay more taxes and keep more money in the community.

We need more than a slick ad campaign that conceals the real costs of Walmart.

We need businesses that respect D.C. and its uniqueness, that respect citizens and embrace the many threads that make up the fabric of our city.

It is time for D.C. residents and politicians to stand up to corporate big-box bullies and say no to Walmart.

Andy Shallal, the chairman of Think Local First D.C. Business Alliance, is the owner of Bus Boys and Poets and Eatonville Restaurants.

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