The head of a local Catholic charity has declined a $2,000 donation from Walmart, citing what he says is the company's detrimental affect on the community.
When Walmart opened its newest store near Kino Boulevard and 36th Street last month, it noted that several local charities would receive a combined $15,000 from the company as part of the celebration.
Among the charities listed was Casa Maria Free Kitchen, on Tucson's south side.
Brian Flagg, who oversees the charity, said he received a telephone call informing him that Casa Maria had been chosen to receive $2,000 and instructions on how to fill out the paperwork to get a check.
"Not only did we not go to the event, we did not fill out the paperwork," Flagg said.
"We feel that even though Walmart has low prices, they pay lousy wages, they're anti-union and they have a detrimental effect on the survival of small businesses," he said. "We consider that blood money."
It was the first time Casa Maria has declined a donation, he said.
"We have some principles," Flagg said.
In response to the snub, Walmart sent the following statement:
"Walmart has a long history of supporting Tucson nonprofits. Since 2009, Walmart has donated more than $345,000 to local Tucson organizations that are supporting the community's needs, including Catholic Community Services/Pio Decimo Center, The Community Food Bank and the Salvation Army of Tucson," said Delia Garcia, a spokeswoman for Walmart. "Our pay and benefits typically meet or exceed what's offered by the majority of our competitors; we promote from within, our turnover rate is below the industry average and our associates' satisfaction scores have trended higher over the past few years."
Asked whether it was responsible to decline $2,000 that could help the people Casa Maria serves, Flagg defended his decision and said he consulted with the charity's board members.
"The consensus was not to accept the money," he said. "Hopefully we're modeling good Catholic, Christian behavior."
Still, he admitted that the donation would have been harder to turn down had the amount been more.
Casa Maria's annual budget is $200,000, and it serves an average of 500 people a day.
"I live in the real world," Flagg said. "It would be a whole different situation if it was $200,000."
What about the principle of the matter?
"It is about the principle," Flagg said, "but it'd be harder to resist $200,000. I'm just being real with you."