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UFCW Poll Finds Support for Living Wage
City Paper
Andrea Appleton

July 21, 2010
View the Original Article

One day before a City Council subcommittee will meet to consider living-wage legislation governing large employers, a public opinion and strategy firm called Lake Research Partners has released a poll indicating that Baltimoreans support such legislation. The poll was funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and their WakeUpWalmart campaign.

The poll covered three urban areas that are currently considering living wage legislation or anticipating the arrival of a Walmart: Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Four hundred voters in each city were polled. They were asked about the following legislative scenario:

Zoning and building for a new big box retail store would be approved only if the company agrees to:

* Pay a minimum wage of at least $12 an hour for entry-level employees and only pay less if they provide quality, affordable health care

* Designate at least 75 percent of jobs to full-time positions and commit to recruiting and hiring workers from the local community

* And reinvest a portion of any local tax breaks they receive into charities and community organizations in the surrounding neighborhoods.

In Baltimore, responses varied by region and ethnicity, but the overwhelming majority supported the proposition. (The lowest percentage of support–72 percent–came from what the researchers termed “North Baltimore.”) Those being polled were then asked to listen to a statement “that was very much what Walmart says about their own stores and the jobs they create,” followed by a counter argument that cast Walmart in a negative light, according to David Mermin of Lake Research. (He declined to disclose the wording of these statements “because some of it is being used strategically internally.”) Residents were then asked to reassess the proposed legislation, resulting in a small drop in support across the board.

Brian Nesbit, of Baltimore’s UFCW Local 27, spoke to reporters during a press call following the poll’s release. “Walmart has a history of being a leader in retail industry and setting the standards for good and for bad,” he said. “If Walmart should start to pay this living wage, that could then set the standards for other workers within the city of Baltimore.”

The Labor Subcommittee will meet to discuss living wage legislation on Thursday, July 22 at 4 p.m. at the Du Burns Council Chambers on the 4th floor of City Hall. The legislation, sponsored by Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (D-14th District) would govern employers who gross more than $10 million annually, and would institute a wage of a little more than $10 an hour for employees of such entities.