Amid controversy over Walmart’s proposal to set up stores in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday that he would join forces with the corporation which will donate $5 million to the city's youth.
Bloomberg said that Walmart would donate up to $5 million to the city's Summer Youth Employment Program, which will help provide summer jobs for teenagers. Although over 30 corporations will add their donations to the program, Walmart's contribution made it possible for an additional 3,400 teenagers to join the financially dwindling program.
According to Bloomberg, Walmart’s contribution has created the largest amount of jobs that the program ever received from a private contributor. The mayor and other city officials have expressed their gratitude for the donation, which will also help alleviate state and federal funding cuts.
"This timely investment in our city's youth comes at a moment when many young people are struggling to find employment and will give thousands the opportunity to take that critical first step toward their career goals," Bloomberg said.
Commissioner Jeanne Mullgrav also highlighted the importance of the contribution for the New York City kids that will be granted jobs this summer.
"In the short term, these jobs mean extra money for tuition, books and household expenses," Mullgrav said. “But in the long term, this experience in the world of work is the first open door to a lasting career. I want to thank Walmart for investing in our young people and the future of our city."
Walmart has been trying for years to establish a presence in New York City but their efforts have been met with opposition.
Christine Quinn, New York City Council Speaker, led a protest against the corporation in April once word got out that it was eyeing a Brooklyn development for its new location. In June, over 75 advocates came together to protest a proposed NYC Walmart location.
Opponents of Walmart say the company is full of bad business practices, from unequal rights for women employees to low wages.
The announcement of Walmart’s donation was made blocks away from Walmart’s coveted potential Brooklyn development, leading some to view the contribution as an informal payoff to the city in exchange for their support.
"It's like bribery. Of course they're buying their way in," said Steven Barrison, a member of the Small Business Congress of New York City, to NY1. "Everyone knows that."
However, Michelle Gilliard, senior director for the Walmart Foundation, said the corporation is only doing its part to help the community.
"For years, the Walmart Foundation has supported programs that strive to make a difference in the lives of New Yorkers," Gilliard said.
"The City's Summer Youth Employment Program is an initiative that's obviously important to kids and families across the five boroughs, especially during these tough times. We've talked a lot about jobs and this donation was an opportunity to deliver during a time of real need."