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Wal-Mart foes slam agreement

Tuesday - 11/22/2011, 4:41pm  ET

The District's vocal anti-Wal-Mart contingent has flat out rejected the community benefits agreement reached between the D.C. government and the world's largest retailer, arguing the pact is weak and unenforceable.

As we first reported Tuesday morning, Mayor Vincent Gray's administration and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. struck a deal that seeks to bring the retailer on board with local hiring, transportation improvements, community outreach and certified business enterprise participation. None of it is mandatory — in fact, the second to last paragraph of the agreement gives Wal-Mart an out based on existing "business conditions."

But D.C. had little leverage with Wal-Mart, given it is asking for no subsidy, is taking no tax credits and needs little zoning approval. While Gray's team touted the deal as "unprecedented," there really wasn't much more it could get out of Wal-Mart.

That said, the Living Wages, Healthy Communities Coalition (also known as Respect D.C.) issued a release Tuesday afternoon slamming the agreement as "window dressing" and criticizing Gray for a lack of leadership.

"This includes nothing to address wages or the quality of these jobs," Marina Streznewski, of the D.C. Jobs Council, said in the release. "The D.C. living wage is $12.50 an hour. How will people working at these stores afford to live in D.C?"

The agreement requires Wal-Mart to pay wages competitive with similar retailers in D.C.