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Protesters hold 'race to the bottom'

Tigard First lost battle, but members say fight to keep big-box stores out continues


Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Protestors march near the new Walmart on Southwest Dartmouth Street. The supercenter opened on Wednesday, despite opposition from groups like Tigard First!Steve Bintliff is a man of his word.

Days after the 138,000-square-foot Walmart supercenter opened on Southwest Dartmouth Street in the Tigard Triangle, the Tigard resident was there, along with a group of about a dozen protesters.

They were there to deliver more than 300 signatures to the store’s management, pledging to boycott the store and expressing their displeasure that the world’s largest retailer decided to locate in town.

“It was a good time,” Bintliff said. “We blew off some steam.”

Bintliff co-founded the political activist group Tigard First, which has spent months trying to keep Walmart from opening a store in Tigard. The group promised to deliver the signatures from its online petition to the store, and on Saturday, staged a “Race to the Bottom” protest, handing out flyers to motorists about the impact Walmart could have on the city.

Wearing race bibs and running shoes, protestors said the fake fun-run was meant to raise awareness.

“We wanted to talk about the impact that big stores, and especially Walmarts, have,” said Bintliff. “We have to make better choices moving forward. We don’t need any more big-box stores. We’re a retail center for the area. Between (Washington Square) mall and Bridgeport, and stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc., we have enough.”

Local organization 15 Now PDX, which is working to raise the minimum wage to $15 in Portland, also participated in the protest.

“Low-wage service jobs like those provided by Walmart are rapidly becoming the dominant forms of employment in this country,” the group said in a statement. “Companies like Walmart, McDonald’s, and Starbucks make billions in annual profits, yet they pay their employees so little that they are forced to rely on food stamps to feed their children.”

Bintliff said more should be done to stop stores like Walmart from coming in the future.

“We need to continue to have the conversation to prevent future Walmarts,” Bintliff said. “The city has done nothing in terms of zoning, of classifying these developments or the way that city planners approach these things.”

Tigard city officials said they couldn’t stop individual stores from opening within city limits and opted not to set limits on big-box stores as a whole.

Tigard city officials said, instead, people should “vote with their pocketbooks” and not shop at the store if they don’t want it in town.

Now that the store is open, Bintliff said Tigard First would likely focus on other issues around the community.

“I can tell you that we are very interested in the City Council election that is coming up,” Bintliff said. “People need to understand who they are voting for and what they are voting for when they elect this person or that person to the City Council. You haven’t seen the last of us.”

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