Conaway says Walmart pushed her on living-wage issue

Shopping center plans to receive key vote Wednesday

October 05, 2010|By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore City Councilwoman says she has backed out of talks with Walmart officials about worker pay at a proposed store in Remington after they asked her to withdraw her support for a bill that would require all major retailers to pay a "living wage."

Councilwoman Belinda Conaway said she had attempted to negotiate higher wages for store employees, but that she refused Walmart's request that she abandon the living-wage bill proposed by Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.

"You get to a point where you don't have anything to negotiate with," said Conaway, who represents portions of West Baltimore, including the proposed site of the 25th Street Station development.

Calls and emails to a Walmart spokesman were not returned Tuesday.

The council's land use committee appeared poised to approve plans for the shopping center on Wednesday.

The committee heard more than seven hours of testimony about the project from developers, city officials and residents at a hearing two weeks ago. The development, slated for the current site of Anderson Automotive, would include a Lowe's home store as well as smaller shops and restaurants.

Developer Rick Walker's proposal to include a Walmart store has sparked an outcry from progressive groups, including those who oppose the retail giant's prohibition against labor unions.

Clarke, who shepherded passage of the nation's first living-wage bill when she was council president in the mid-1990s, introduced legislation earlier this year that would have required city retailers that gross more than $10 million annually, or are part of a chain that does, to pay workers the city's living wage.

That bill was killed by a narrow committee vote, but Clarke is attempting to revive it.

Conaway said Walmart representatives pledged to pay workers more than the minimum wage if she withdrew her support from Clarke's bill.

With committee approval Wednesday, the proposal could go before the council later this month.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

twitter.com/juliemore

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