Jan. 18, on DCTV’s “More Room On the Outside,” Milfred Ellis, a longtime Ward 4 resident and former Department of Labor economist, discussed his opposition to Walmart’s attempt to locate four stores in the District of Columbia. “[People] think they’re getting cheap prices and so forth [when they shop at Walmart], but they’re paying a hell of a price that they’re not even aware of… Wherever Walmart lays its head, it tends to absorb a lot of the other businesses. And for every job that Walmart produces, it causes the community to lose one-and-a-half jobs. So therefore, it’s not a job creator for any community.”
“More Room” co-host Toussaint Tingling-Clemmons is a native Washingtonian who lives east of the Anacostia River in Ward 7, where unemployment stands at 19 percent. Next door in Ward 8, unemployment stands at an even more staggering 30 percent. Tingling-Clemmons said that while he is “someone who despises what Walmart does,” D.C.’s high unemployment, particularly east of the river, must be addressed immediately with jobs, even Walmart jobs. “The kids who I work with, who are 16 and 17 now, who have children themselves, they need jobs tomorrow. Or, really, they needed a job yesterday… We’re at a juncture where [we have to ask ourselves], What can we do for them now, before they get stuck in a revolving door?… [A revolving door] where the bars lock and they’re gone for years and we have another generation of fatherless and motherless children.”
Ellis responded, “Even though unemployment is high… if Walmart gets here the unemployment will be higher in the next five or six years. We’re going to lose a lot of those small businesses, the mom and pop stores… [Walmart's] past history has shown that wherever they’ve been, there’s a lot of Main Streets that are closed down right now… It takes five or ten years before… you find out these places are closing up and these Main Streets are closing down. And the next thing you know you got one store, like you had many years ago in the 1800s. You had a general store that sold everything. That’s what Walmart wants to do. It wants to… sell everything.”
The Washington Post noted, “Wal-Mart’s charitable foundation has provided grants and donations to D.C. nonprofit organizations in recent years, including more than $2 million in fiscal 2010.” Recently, there were reports that Walmart was discussing teaming up with the University of the District of Columbia to create a jobs training program. This beneficence comes on the heels of the Walmart foundation’s $25 million donation to last year’s D.C. teachers’ contract, which weakened teacher protections. The contract came under scrutiny after it was discovered that Walmart’s “donation” came with a stipulation: If D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee leaves, so might the money.
Ellis said, “Walmart… is one of these companies that has always supported the Republican party. So a big corporation like that in D.C. is going to have a devastating effect on the politics of D.C. and who runs this city. And that’s another thing that we need to be concerned about… Do we want another Republican stronghold in the District of Columbia? Do we want another Tea Party here? I mean, we need to think about what we’re doing when we’re talking about allowing a Walmart to come here and plant four major stores in this community because they’re going to really take over the politics and everything else in the District of Columbia.”