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Comments by YACCS
Thursday, February 10, 2005

Time for the rat

bring out the rat. Coming to a Wal-Mart construction site near you.

As Wal-Mart Plans Foothold, New York Closes Ranks

"Wal-Mart is eager to make New York City its next frontier," said an East Coast representative of the company, but many New Yorkers seem ready to welcome Wal-Mart as enthusiastically as a frontier town welcomes a desperado.

Small businesses, union leaders, City Council members and even some mayoral candidates are gearing up to prevent Wal-Mart from setting foot in town, now that the world's largest retailer has acknowledged it wants to open its first New York City store, planned for Rego Park, Queens, in 2008.

Vornado Realty Trust, the developer whose proposed shopping complex would include a 132,000-square-foot Wal-Mart, has filed a land-use application with the city, and the approval process is expected to take seven months. But Wal-Mart's opponents are planning to pressure every government body that will consider the application - the community board, the City Planning Commission and the City Council - to reject it.

The fight seems likely to become the biggest battle against a single store in the city's history, partly because the labor movement sees Wal-Mart as Public Enemy No. 1, and because small businesses fear that Wal-Mart - which says it is looking at more sites in New York - will attract so many customers that it will take millions of dollars in business from them.

"There will never be a more diverse and comprehensive coalition than this effort against Wal-Mart," said Richard Lipsky, spokesman for the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, an anti-Wal-Mart coalition based in New York. "It will include small businesspeople, labor people, environmental groups, women's groups, immigrant groups and community groups."

Once factor that will make the fight unusually intense is that labor has decided that frustrating Wal-Mart's New York ambitions is pivotal to its new, nationwide campaign to pressure the company to improve the way it pays and treats its workers.

"Wal-Mart has come to represent the lowest common denominator in the treatment of working people," said Brian M. McLaughlin, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, the umbrella group of more than one million union members. "Wal-Mart didn't build its empire on bargains. They built it on the backs of working people here and abroad."

Wal-Mart has faced opposition elsewhere, most notably in Chicago and Inglewood, a Los Angeles suburb. Last May, the Chicago City Council voted to allow a Wal-Mart on the city's West Side, but blocked one proposed for the South Side, while in Inglewood voters rejected a Wal-Mart, 60 percent to 40 percent, in a referendum last April.

Nonetheless, company officials seem surprised by the hostility they have encountered here, especially because the city has more than a dozen big-box discount stores.

"I hope we'll be given a fair chance," said Mia Masten, the East Coast representative of Wal-Mart. "We are interested in New York City. With the population there, it would be a wonderful opportunity for us in terms of reaching a customer base we haven't reached yet."


Perhaps the strongest opposition to Wal-Mart will come from organized labor, which has told City Council members that Wal-Mart pays low wages, provides health insurance to fewer than half its workers, is vehemently antiunion and faces a huge sex-discrimination lawsuit.

Wal-Mart's Ms. Masten said the new store would create more than 300 jobs. She said Wal-Mart stores located in cities paid $10.38 an hour on average, though union officials put the figure around $9.25. She said Wal-Mart offers profit-sharing, a 401(k) plan and affordable health benefits, starting at $40 a month for individual coverage and $155 a month for family coverage.

The union issue is the big deal here. If they whip out the purple rat and the unions start telling people how shitty Wal-Mart is, despite low prices, they will run into a brick wall. Which would be amusing since there are a couple of Targets and K-Mart's here. Home Depot has just come to Manhattan

If Wally World's staff is suprised by the reaction, well, they haven't seen anything yet. This is a union town. The Daily News found that out the hard way when they tried to deliver their scab papers and they mysteriously caught on fire. People hate Wal-Mart because of it's policies. Now, there are some issues with big box stores, but people usually blow it off. Home Depot has things no mom and pop store will have, simple as that. But Wal-Mart just sells cheap shit.

It doesn't help matters that Wal-Mart just decided to close a Quebec store which unionized. It was "losing money". Yeah, right. Expect to hear a lot about that store in the coming weeks. They ran into a brick wall in Inglewood over traffic and jobs. They have no clue as to the kind of pressure New York's unions can exert politically. When you get the teachers and the hospital workers union talking about a living wage and how Wal-Mart treats workers so badly.

I usually don't like the anti-big box campaigns because they don't reflect reality. New Yorkers often have to drive to the suburbs to get decent food. Ask Jen about Stew Leonard's some time. But Wal-Mart is different. They treat people like shit, their goods are shit and they ruin communities. Target and K Mart are good citizens providing needs for the city. Wal-Mart can only cause harm.

So there will be updates on this ongoing fight in the middle of an election.

posted by Steve @ 12:03:00 AM

12:03:00 AM

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