Loose Lips

Wilmot, Meet Walmart

By now you all know, if you have a Twitter account and follow certain councilmembers, that a handful of hip, urban Walmarts might actually be coming to the District. The Post's Mike DeBonis has more details on possible locations, and how some liberal, pro-labor councilmembers are willing to give the big-box business behemoth a chance.

The general knock on Walmart, which usually comes from liberal, pro-labor corners, is that the store doesn't treat its employees very well—it fights union efforts, pays low wages, and doesn't offer very good benefits.

Wait a second, that line: "Fights union efforts, pays low wages, and doesn't offer very good benefits" sounds familiar... Oh yeah, that's what the employees of Individual Development Inc., which operates group homes for the District's developmentally disabled, recently told LL about their boss, superlobbyist David Wilmot. IDI workers told LL they received low wages ($10/hour during the week, $11/hour on weekends) with no raises and crappy benefits, while Wilmot rakes in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. (Tax records show that he's pulled in as much as $346,743 a year.) His employees just voted to unionize against his wishes, and the Service Employees International Union has filed a complaint, alleging that Wilmot fired an employee for trying to unionize.

So what does this have to do with Walmart? Turns out Wilmot is Walmart's main local lobbyist. It's a perfect match!

Financial disclosure forms show that Walmart paid Wilmot $15,000 for the first six months of this year. (That's actually $10k less than what the company paid Wilmot for the same period in 2009, so yes, the economic downturn affects us all.)

Walmart's financial disclosure forms also show the company lobbied the D.C. Council, though it's not clear if it was Wilmot doing the lobbying. The firm's reps met with Almost Mayor Vince Gray on April 30, both Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander and Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. on May 31, and At-Large Councilmember Michael Brown (LL's pretty sure it's the councilmember, not the shadow senator, but there was no middle initial listed) on June 30.

One more neat thing: LL wrote a while ago about the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, which organizes the National Marathon, has a CEO who makes more than $400k a year, and has been the beneficiary of very, very generous city officials. Turns out Walmart donated to the group this summer $1,000 in granola bars, peanuts, Gatorade, water and Vitamin Water (which was probably all went to Still Mayor Adrian Fenty). And now they're getting the red carpet treatment here in the District. Weird!

  • WARD411


    Today, Councilmember Bowser responded to news that Walmart intends to locate a retail outlet along an important Ward 4 corridor. “I am very interested to learn more from Walmart executives about their interest in Ward 4,” said Bowser. “The intersection at Georgia and Missouri Avenues represents a huge piece of the Georgia Avenue revitalization puzzle. Any redevelopment at this highly visible, dynamic location must be done thoughtfully and with community outreach.” A previous plan to build a mixed use —housing and retail—project at the former Curtis Chevrolet site was endorsed by Bowser contingent on concessions to the community and to the site’s significance. But, a sluggish economy and a varied neighborhood reaction slowed progress. With the plan aborted, Bowser consistently urged the property owner to keep all options on the table and to move as quickly as possible to develop the property to its most productive, best use. “ It’s important that this vacant lot be put to use, sooner rather than later,” she said. “But more importantly, we have to ensure that Ward 4 residents understand and are comfortable with the effect the store will have on their neighborhoods and local businesses; that residents are informed about traffic flow and parking details, and that they are given the opportunity to learn more about the company’s labor practices,” Bowser said. “And most importantly, the company must make clear its commitment to improving the Brightwood community and all of Ward 4. We look forward to starting that conversation with the company, Ward 4 residents, and our local leaders.”

  • Ron moten

    It's not in all CAPS but that's a pretty good statement. I also didn't see in the statement where Bowser said she hadn't met with Walmart. Maybe you're the Bumbass?