You may have already heard that uber-retailer Walmart plans to open a 33,000 square-foot store in L.A.’s Chinatown.
Last week opponents of Walmart’s Chinatown store gathered at Sixth and Park View in MacArthur Park to listen to Walmart “associates”—the retailer’s preferred term for its employees—talk about their need for public assistance to make ends meet.
If you know L.A., you know MacArthur Park is nowhere near Chinatown. But it is across the street from a California Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) building—a place you’d go to apply for social services such as welfare and health care— for support you might need if you were employed at a poverty-wage job.
Support you might need if you work at Walmart.
There have been scores of news stories over the years about Walmart and the low job standards that rendered much of its workforce eligible for Medicaid.
Happy Birthday, Walmart! You great big mega-marketing rascal–you turn 50 this week. You’ve come such a long way from Roger, Arkansas, the tiny town at the foot of the Ozarks where you took your first wobbly steps.
Now you’re an international star! The planet’s biggest private-sector employer, with 2.2 million “associates” throughout the world—we usually call ‘em employees, but whatever– 1.4 million in the United States. Creator of history’s most efficient global supply chain, you call the shots on production, wage and workplace standards around the world—the Walmart business model ruthlessly undercut those everywhere. Plus you have shriveled and destroyed small business communities in towns across the United States.
Star power, dudes.
Now you are here in Los Angeles celebrating the big Five Oh with a new acquisition.
It’s tasteful, not large and gaudy, like your typical 200,000 square foot megastore.
“James, would you mind driving me to Wal-Mart?”
My mother-in-law asked me this question on a day when my wife was at work and I was desperately trying to get some writing accomplished. I knew it was going to be a tough week to entertain, long before Gerry arrived — a clash of union meetings, picketing and writing classes at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica.
I was typing at the computer in our small, one-bedroom apartment when she posed the question to me. I tried not to overreact, but I’m sure my eyebrows constricted tighter than I had intended.
“Wal-Mart?” I replied. “You want me to drive you to . . . Wal-Mart?”
She nodded. “I’d like to go the garden center and pick up some things.”
I didn’t want to drive to Wal-Mart, but when it came down to it I decided I would rather be on the wrong side of my union than on the wrong side of my mother-in-law. » Read more about: My Mother-in-Law’s Wal-Mart Moment »
Having saturated the rural landscape, shuttering local stores in small town America along the way, now, in the wake of stagnant sales and increased competition, Walmart desperately needs to expand into urban markets.
And what better urban market than one full of eight million people? While the big box retailer is eager to enter the Big Apple, challenges loom large. Given the negative reputation Walmart has earned for being hostile to workers among other problems, many New Yorkers are skeptical, to put it mildly.
To counter the opposition, Walmart is positioning itself as the solution to urban food deserts – areas where finding real food is next to impossible. But as Anna Lappé has eloquently argued,