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Portland takes stand against investing in Walmart

The city of Portland, which owns $36 million in corporate bonds issued by Walmart, won’t be buying any more.

Portland city commissioners unanimously approved a motion Wednesday calling on the city to stop investing in the Arkansas-based retail giant, as well as a companion measure that sets up a panel to advise the city on criteria for adding other companies to its do not buy list.

Commissioner Steve Novick, who proposed the measures, said the city shouldn’t be investing in companies whose corporate practices are so antithetical to the city’s values.

In Walmart’s case, Novick cited a litany of practices: Walmart’s documented efforts to bribe Mexican leaders; its aggressive moves to thwart union drives; its reductions of health insurance benefits to employees; and its bullying of suppliers and other manufacturers.

“No Fortune 500 company is going to pay too much attention to what Portland doe,” Novick acknowledges. However, he hopes the city’s actions could provide some momentum, if others follow suit.

Novick acknowledged that Walmart has used its tremendous clout to force food suppliers to provide healthier foods, and to improve its environmental practices. “It’s not like everything they do is bad,” he says.

However, the fact that one company has so much clout, and wields it, is dangerous to our free-market system, he says.

Interestingly, the city received no input from Walmart, or any other critic, before approving the two new policies in 5-0 votes on Wednesday, Novick says.

The city won't try to sell off its Walmart bonds before they mature, Novick says. That wasn't seen as benefiting any cause, since the city already essentially loaned the company money when it bought the bonds. The last batch of Walmart bonds expire in 2016, he says.

Steve Law can reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .