By C.N. Staff Writer
The talk of Walmart coming to D.C. has been long characterized and attached to The Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA), known colloquially as the “Walmart Bill.” However, the realization of an actual store will open on December 4th at the 5968 Georgia Ave. N.W. and 99 H Street N.W. locations. Both locations will open at 8am on the 4th and will have approximately 300 staffers.
According to Walmart spokeswoman, Amanda Henneberg, more than 23,000 applications were received for the 600 jobs, when the company opened two satellite-hiring centers near the store’s locations. She said most of the associates will be full-time, but did not say how many of the applicants or hires were District residents.
The Ward 6 store will be part of the retailer’s new urban format, and come in under the usual size of Walmart stores located in the suburbs. While Walmart stores and Super Centers can come in at over 200,000 square feet, the Ward 6 location will come in at 74,000 square feet and include residences above it. The Ward 4 store will be bigger, at 103,000 square feet. Accompanying the stores will be additional ground-floor retail. The H Street store will also have residential units above it.
In late 2011 Walmart announced plans to open six stores across the city, but faced city-wide skepticism from legislators and interest groups against big box retailers. The remaining stores will be located in wards 5 and 7. The LRAA bill would have required the company — and other big-box retailers — to pay its employees a minimum of $12.50 an hour. Walmart officials threatened to yank three of the planned stores during the recent debate over the bill, Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the bill after being passed by the D.C. Council.
The stores are located near Union Station and in the Brightwood neighborhood.
Antoinette Cobbs is a new hire at the Georgia Ave. NW location. She said, “I am excited the store has come to the city! This is a great opportunity for me to provide for my child and myself. I’ve enjoyed training and am excited for the rush of the holiday shopping.” Ward 6 resident Sharon Moore shares Cobbs’ excitement. She said, “Although there has been heavy debate about the stores coming to the city, I am ready for them. Their prices are unbeatable and I think ultimately it will be good for job growth in the city.”
Alvin Robinson is the store manager for the 103,000-square-foot Walmart on Georgia Ave. NW. Alvin was hired into Walmart’s management training program two years ago and served as store manager of the Walmart Supercenter in Frederick, MD prior to coming to D.C. Eric Quist is the store manager for the 74,000-square-foot Walmart on H St. NW. Eric is a 7-year Navy veteran who has been working with Walmart for the past 19 years.
The company hopes to bring about 1,500 new retail jobs to the city once all five planned stores are completed. A sixth store was put on hold due to a developer issue. In a company statement, Walmart said the stores will offer “a full grocery selection, fresh produce, bakery, delicatessen, organic food items, full-service pharmacy and $4 prescription program, as well as a broad assortment of general merchandise including apparel and electronics.”
The National Labor Relations Board general counsel issued a decision that it will prosecute Wal-Mart for its alleged violation of workers’ rights. More than 117 workers were fired, some of whom participated in strikes against the retailer last June.
Walmart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan told The Associated Press, “We believe this is just a procedural step and we will pursue our options to defend the company because we believe our actions were legal and justified. The fact is we provide good jobs and unparalleled opportunities for our associates.”
Other notable things Walmart brings to D.C. with the planned six stores include a DC Community Partnership Initiative, which was proposed in 2011. Highlights of the initiative include:
— An effort to work with local small and minority-owned businesses to do construction work;
— a citywide workforce development program aimed at “low-income families, minorities, veterans, at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated residents”
— the “expectation of filling a majority of available positions” with city residents;
— $21 million worth of “charitable partnerships”over the next seven years;
— a commitment not to sell guns or ammunition in its D.C. stores and to attempt to provide space for locally sourced products;
— and an embrace of “transportation demand management measures,” including Capital Bikeshare stations, bus shelters, and electric car charging stations.
Of the agreement, Mayor Gray has said, “This agreement represents an unprecedented citywide commitment from a retailer.… Wal-Mart is showing what it means to be a good corporate neighbor.”