Wal-Mart may as well be on the ballot

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It’s voting time! By now registered voters should have received the thick, gray pamphlet outlining issues ranging from the hot topic of presidential candidates to Measure 52. What you should know is that the results of the mayoral election may impact everything from state funding to your next summer job.

As several local newspapers have reported, one of the big deciding factors between Sam Adams and Sho Dozono is their attitude toward Wal-Mart. While Adams has discouraged the retail titan from building additional stores in Portland, Dozono has reportedly said that he thinks it’s unwise not to welcome such a large retailer.

With the sagging economy, extra jobs and super-low prices are fairly tempting. Yet, anyone who has watched Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices already knows that welcoming Wal-Mart into the community adds a corporation that drives local businesses to permanently close their doors and drains state funds by paying employees so little that they have to rely on local government funds for food and health care.

What we need is an influx of higher-paying, sustainable jobs so that people can afford to buy local.

Luckily, Wal-Mart hasn’t encroached on Portland too much yet. There’s one store within city limits, but the rest are mostly in small suburbs like Wood Village and Woodburn. Communities actively protesting have successfully kept Wal-Mart out of Sellwood, Cedar Hills, Oregon City, Gresham and other districts.

However, I have seen firsthand what Wal-Mart does once it gets its claws around a city. When I lived in Mesa, Ariz., there weren’t any local grocery stores like New Seasons and food cooperatives. Instead, every few miles there would be a Wal-Mart shopping center. On a much smaller scale, the infestation has already begun along Portland’s 82nd Avenue, where two Wal-Marts are just 2.9 miles apart from each other.

Sure, there are other corporations in Portland, but Wal-Mart, according to www.fastcompany.com, is “the world’s largest company–bigger than ExxonMobil, General Motors and General Electric…. Wal-Mart sold $244.5 billion worth of goods last year. It sells in three months what number-two retailer Home Depot sells in a year…. It does more business than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway and Kroger combined.”

From the factory workers in China to the U.S. associates working for $8 an hour, the employees are the ones paying for Wal-Mart’s low prices. Other corporations have to drive down their employee wages to compete. That is not a message that we want to send to Portland businesses.

The other thing that bothers me about Wal-Mart’s morals is that according to United Food and Commercial Workers, the Walton family is worth about $102 billion, and very little is donated. The poor distribution of wealth from Wal-Mart and other corporations sickens me.

Small local businesses are what keep Portland unique, thriving and beautiful. I would hate to see that gobbled up by a greedy corporation like Wal-Mart. Take the time to consider all the different candidates running for office and vote for your community.

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