On June 30, I rode a bus from near the South Los Angeles site of Walmart to the Cornfield – the starting point for the largest rally ever held against the retail giant. It was on this bus packed with African American community activists that I came to fully understand why, as an African American pastor, I have for the last 10 years refused to shop at Walmart.
There has long been a debate in the community about whether low-income African Americans should shop at Walmart. Some people say that Walmart helps those who are struggling economically because they keep their prices low.
The truth is that Walmart is the leader at operating in its own best interest. And that interest – as we see with the enormous wealth of the Walton family – is to make as much money as possible.
There are several reasons why people who depend on the low prices and availability of Walmart should stop shopping there.
On July 3 the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 filed a lawsuit challenging the City of Los Angeles’ handling of Walmart’s controversial Chinatown store project.
The suit alleges that the L.A. City Department of Building and Safety failed to notify the public of its decision to issue a Notice of Exemption (NOE), which allows Walmart to move forward on its Chinatown project without environmental review. The lawsuit also asks a judge to stop construction at the store.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are asking a judge to find the exemption invalid and require that a new one be issued. Because the building permits are being appealed – an initial hearing is expected in August – the lawsuit argues that the exemption should not have been issued until the appeal process was exhausted.
The notice to the public of the exemption is intended to prevent the appearance of backroom deals.
Even as more Los Angeles politicians are pledging to refuse contributions from Walmart, one candidate with Walton family support placed third in the closely-watched June 6th primary for Assembly District 46 in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley.
Charter school champion Brian Johnson lost the race despite massive independent expenditures on his behalf by political action committees, including two that are closely tied to Carrie Walton Penner and her husband Greg Penner. Ms. Penner is the daughter of Walmart Chairman Rob Walton and Mr. Penner is a member of the Walmart Board of Directors.
PAC spending was widely expected to carry Johnson into the general election. But in the end it may have hurt more than it helped.
Johnson was put on the defensive by winning candidate Adrin Nazarian’s charge that “right-wing anti-teacher organizations funded by the owners of the Walmart Corporation are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to elect Brian Johnson to the Assembly.”
Johnson’s campaign issued a response which implied that Nazarian’s claim was unfounded,
Nearly all employers struggle to contain health care costs. Walmart, however, has long made it part of its business model to externalize those costs. The World’s Biggest Company has repeatedly come under fire from labor and community groups, as well as states, for promoting a health care structure that encouraged employee reliance on Medicaid. The Supreme Court’s June 28 decision upheld the heart of the Affordable Care Act, which was good for President Obama–and also good for Walmart.
“The ‘Obamacare’ plan is a huge subsidy to Walmart,” Nelson Lichtenstein, author of The Retail Revolution: How Walmart Created a Brave New World of Business said in a phone interview. The Affordable Care Act will also benefit the bottom rung of Walmart’s workforce who will be eligible for Medicare under the plan, he added.
Lichtenstein refers to Walmart’s army of part-timers. The retailer’s Web site features a state-by-state report of its average hourly rate for full-time regular employees and makes much of the figures—but the pay scale numbers don’t apply to large numbers of Walmart associates (and are disputed by advocates who use industry research to place the pay scales at a lower rate.)
USA Today reports that Walmart declined to say what the retailer’s national hourly wage is for part-time workers.
Last Saturday, thousands of people made history in Chinatown at the largest Walmart protest ever held. Spurred by Walmart’s attempt to build its first L.A. grocery store in Chinatown, the crowd, many wielding handmade protest signs, marched from Los Angeles State Historic Park (the Cornfield) through one of L.A.’s oldest neighborhoods.
They came to fight what Walmart’s presence in this community, and others across Los Angeles, would bring: low-wage jobs, the destruction of local businesses and the spirit-crushing replacement of local character with chain store sameness.
At the main rally, underneath the iconic dragon gates on Broadway and Cesar Chavez Avenue, participants listened to a lineup of speakers and entertainers, the latter including Grammy winners Tom Morello and Ben Harper. Among the most compelling were current Walmart workers scraping by on poverty wages and reliance on government assistance, and community leaders concerned about the destruction of their cultural heritage Walmart would cause.
Under clear skies and searing heat, thousands turned out on June 30 to protest Walmart’s controversial plan to open its first L.A. grocery store in Chinatown. Among the featured speakers at the event was Grishriela Green — one of dozens of current Walmart employees who joined the march and rally, bringing with them a distinctly personal perspective on the retail giant.
Green, who was hired by Walmart’s store in the Crenshaw District three and a half years ago, was raised in a family that imbued her with an understanding of the importance of hard work, and of speaking one’s mind. When the Crenshaw Walmart first opened, Green was optimistic about the effect it would have on her life and community, but quickly became disillusioned with the corporation’s claims.
“One of the promises, which is a half-truth, is it’s a career opportunity for each and every associate,” said Green. “Even after 20 years,
Update: KPPC FM’s Hayley Fox reports that L.A. City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Jan Perry is also declining Walmart campaign funds.
Los Angeles’ two top mayoral candidates announced Thursday they will not accept campaign contributions from Walmart, which is locked in a battle with community and labor groups over the retail giant’s plans to open a 3300-square-foot grocery store in Chinatown.
The pledges by L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti and his chief opponent, City Controller Wendy Greuel, bring new focus to Saturday’s protest march and rally against Walmart. Both candidates have endorsed the June 30 action.
“Los Angeles loses if we run a race to the bottom in terms of wages and working conditions,” Garcetti said. “Our economy needs good middle class jobs to get back on track, and that’s what we should be working toward.”
The two candidates urged other elected politicians to also refuse money from Walmart.
As thousands prepare to hit the streets of L.A.’s historic Chinatown on Saturday, June 30, for the largest protest against Walmart ever held in the U.S., several acclaimed musicians, including three Grammy winners, are joining the growing effort to stop the world’s largest retailer from opening in Chinatown and expanding across Los Angeles with poverty-level jobs and practices that hurt local businesses and communities. Musicians are also backing hundreds of Walmart workers who will march on June 30 to demand Walmart treat them with respect and provide wages that can support families.
Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, actor and author Steve Earle made a video from a recording studio in Nashville to support the march against Walmart in Los Angeles on June 30. After singing a few lines from his new song, Earle says, “If I wasn’t [in Nashville making a record] I would love to be in Chinatown,
Walmart soon turns 50. What better time for a makeover, a little freshening up –a rebranding, perhaps? Maybe a new look to go along with a move from the ‘burbs to the Big City.
The Big W is hoping a fresh face will help as it moves to crack an urban market worth as much as $100 billion. Walmart has overbuilt in rural and suburban areas to the point of cannibalization, one Walmart Supercenter devouring the profits of the other. The loser is left to die—and the vacant space is left to whatever retailer can afford to move in (and is not a Walmart competitor) A PBS documentary reported in 2001 that Walmart had left behind more than 25 million square feet of unoccupied space across the country.
Walmart U.S President and CEO Bill Simon rolled out the makeover concept last year at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Consumer Conference.
Maybe you will be one of the 10,000 people expected at a June 30th protest in L.A.’s Chinatown against a controversial plan to open a Walmart store there. The uber-retailer’s reputation for wrecking the atmosphere of historic districts like Chinatown, and posing a potential threat to local businesses, has generated strong resistance to plans for a 33,000 square-foot “express” Walmart at Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues.
The fight isn’t only about Chinatown–it’s about all of Los Angeles, because Walmart may be coming to a corner near you. Walmart has designs on locations around L.A. County to gain a foothold in the local urban grocery market.
The retailing behemoth needs to shore up sagging sales and stagnating stock prices, which requires expansion into U.S. urban markets. (Rural and suburban areas across the country have reached the Walmart saturation point.) But Walmart has encountered stubborn opposition in urban centers where residents take issue with its penchant for keeping its employees in low-wage,
(Editor’s Note: A slightly longer version of this post originally appeared in Dissent.)
Last month Wal-Mart became the latest company to drop its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council in response to public outrage over ALEC’s aggressive support for “Stand Your Ground” laws (which are implicated in the death of Trayvon Martin, among others). Wal-Mart won some kudos for leaving ALEC, but its shrewd move was nothing more than an attempt to divert attention from the retail giant’s current troubles and its multimillion dollar effort to burnish its image, peddle its influence, and increase its market share.
The uproar over the Wal-Mart bribery scandal in Mexico uncovered last month evokes the famous distinction between “dishonest graft” and “honest graft” made by George Washington Plunkitt, a Tammany Hall politician in the early 1900s. Dishonest graft, Plunkitt explained, involves bribes and blackmail.
Here’s a fun fact you probably didn’t know: Arizona’s notorious SB 1070 law was born in a Walmart.
Yes, the inspiration for the most draconian anti-immigrant legislation in the nation, a measure that permits law enforcement to ask about immigration status, one that swings the door wide open for racial profiling—SB 1070—reportedly sprang from a moment of inspiration at a Walmart checkstand.
This origins story is brought to you courtesy of the Ministry of Citizenship, a faux MinuteMan-style group that purports to be a fan of the legislation. According to the Ministry, it happened this way: state representative Russell Pearce, the measure’s sponsor, “hatched the idea for SB 1070 late one night while waiting in the checkout line at Walmart.”
“Here I was just trying to buy some Cheetos and cat litter, and the crowds were just horrendous,” the Ministry quotes Pearce as saying.
The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) has filed a lawsuit against current and former members of Walmart’s board of directors, and other company officers, charging them with gross violation of fiduciary duty in connection with the company’s Mexican bribery scandal. That scandal, extensively examined by a recent New York Times feature, revealed a corporation so eager to expand its Mexican operations that it ignored findings by its own investigators sent to look into the allegations.
CalSTRS’ move takes the form of a derivative-action suit – a suit nominally brought on behalf of Walmart against individuals whose actions damage the retail giant and potentially, investors such as CalSTRS.
CalSTRS is the second largest public pension fund in the United States and holds more than 5.3 million shares of Wal-Mart, valued at $313.5 million, accounting for 0.41 percent of CalSTRS global equities portfolio.