Tucson Charity Chief Turns Down $2,000 "Blood Money" Donation From Walmart

The head of the Casa Maria Free Kitchen in Tucson has turned down a $2,000 donation from Walmart, calling it "blood money" because of the way the mega-chain treats workers.

Brian Flagg admitted to the Arizona Daily Star, however, that it would have been "harder to resist" a higher amount, like $200,000 -- equivalent to the charity's yearly budget.

Sticking to principles is a nice idea, but not when it conflicts with reason.

Still, Flagg's small act of rebellion is drawing attention to what he sees as rightful criticism of Walmart. He believes it's worth the pain of turning down the $2,000 -- which was just about what the charity paid in property taxes last year.

"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," Flagg told the Tucson newspaper. "We consider that blood money."

Walmart started the squabble by announcing that the charity would be among those receiving a total of $15,000 in donations following the opening of a nearby store -- even though it had never discussed the matter with Casa Maria.

The Casa Maria Free Kitchen, says an online mission statement, is part of a Catholic worker's movement that began 80 years ago in New York City. A 2011 newsletter says that every day, the place serves about "500 bag lunches and 150 family food bags in addition to coffee and huge pots of soup."

Walmart executives issued a statement in their own defense, saying they pay above-average wages and benefits, and that the company donated $345,000 last year to Tucson charities.

In any case, Flagg's protest will be tough to hear over the din of thousands of Black Friday shoppers at Walmart today.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.