In response to Walmart’s announced plan for a new grocery store in the city’s historic Chinatown, Walmart employees today held a press conference criticizing the company’s expansion. Standing in front of a public assistance office across from MacArthur Park,
near downtown L.A., the employees cited business practices that force working families to live in poverty and do without health care coverage.
Walmart’s proposal has also sparked opposition from community groups that say the City of Los Angeles and its residents cannot afford to subsidize the poverty wages Walmart pays while making huge profits. Walmart has the highest number of employees on public assistance in 17 states, with workers earning an estimated 12.4% less than retail workers as a whole.
“Our concern is the lack of job standards in place,” said Roxana Tynan, executive director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE). “Without them, Walmart, in a rush to profit off poor communities, will keep them mired in poverty.”
Over 700,000 Walmart employees do not have health care coverage from their employer, with Walmart refusing to provide benefits to part-time employees. By aggressively driving down costs and paying substandard wages, Walmart has further concentrated poverty in low-income communities such as those near its Crenshaw and Baldwin Park stores.
“I’ve seen many of my co-workers driven out of their jobs so that Walmart could reduce the number of insured employees,” said Angie Rodriguez, a Walmart employee in Baldwin Park. “We know that Walmart can afford to pay hard-working employees fair wages so that they don’t have to rely on welfare to make ends meet.”
In the early 1990s, the development that is the proposed site for the store received a $4 billion subsidy mandating the creation of permanent jobs for low-income residents. Greg Fletcher, a Walmart employee in Duarte, said, “Walmart needs to stand by the requirement that taxpayers funded – if you want to expand your stores, give your employees permanent jobs that allow us to stand on our own and support our families.”