Mayor Defends Walmart's $5M Donation to Create Summer Jobs

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended Walmart against criticism that the big box store's $5 million donation to help create jobs was more of a PR ploy than a philanthropic gesture.

"Walmart's a good corporate citizen," Bloomberg said Tuesday in Brownsville, Brooklyn, when asked about the intent behind the donation. "I don't see how you do your company's philanthropy without saying that it's connected to everything. Everything's always connected."

Bloomberg announced that the chain pledged $5 million to create summer jobs for young New Yorkers on Tuesday, saying the money would restore as many as 3,400 of the 11,000 total minimum-wage jobs the city was forced to slash from its Summer Youth Employment Program due to loss of state and federal aid.

Walmart has drawn the ire of many critics who do not want the big box store moving into the five boroughs.

But Councilman Charles Barron, an outspoken critic of Walmart's labor practices who represents parts of Brooklyn where the chain had been reportedly eyeing possible locations, called the grant a "little pittance" that amounts to a "cheap hustle" for the retailer to enter the New York market.

"Pay a living wage, $12 and up, allow workers to unionize, pay decent health care, pay pension, use local distributors, and you're welcomed," Barron said.

Walmart spokesman Steve Restivo said the retailer continues to look for locations across the five boroughs, and that it hasn't signed any leases in the city.

Whether Walmart will decide to open a New York store, and whether such a move will require legislative approval, remain to be seen. Bloomberg insists that no preferential treatment will be afforded to the retail giant.

"We're not going to treat Walmart special, but we’re not going to discriminate against them or any other company that wants to come here," Bloomberg said.