Remington Walmart could fuel chain's critics
It'll be interesting to see if Walmart's 2nd store and rising visibility in Baltimore fuel the kind of backlash that occurred in Chicago, where anti-Walmart sentiment has held the chain to only one store even though it wants to build a lot more. Led by unions, anti-Walmart activists pushed Chicago aldermen to pass a "living wage" bill a few years ago applying to Walmart and other big-box stores. Mayor Richard Daley vetoed it, saying the city needed the jobs Walmart would bring. But the store's Chicago presence is still limited.
So far sentiment against a Walmart in Baltimore's Remington section may be confined to neighbors worried about traffic and crime. But Baltimore would seem ripe for anti-Walmart animus focused on the chain's employee pay and destruction of mom & pop stores. Baltimore is home to the nation's first living wage law applying to city contractors. Three years ago Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a living wage law for state contractors. A few years ago the General Assembly passed a law (over the veto of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.) forcing Walmart and only Walmart to offer a certain level of health benefits. The courts struck it down. The Remington Walmart will certainly be a challenge to established, smaller stores.
Even so, the retail unions don't seem to have the kind of pull in Baltimore City Council that they do in Chicago. In any event, benefits of the low prices Walmart brings to Baltimore will outweigh the negatives of low wages. Some liberals bash Walmart as the enemy of lower- and middle-income folks when in fact its low prices deliver huge benefits to working families.