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2009-08-09
New York, NY. Wal-Mart Still Dreaming Of A Superstore In The Big Apple

Wal-Mart has broken many a shovel on projects in big cities like Boston, Chicago and New York, where organized opposition has made the soil rocky. Recently, the company has escalated efforts to build a second store in Chicago, and this week Wal-Mart was talking about New York City again. On March, 28, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart's CEO had found a worm inside the Big Apple. Then Chairman Lee Scott told the New York Times his passion to locate a superstore in Manhattan had cooled off. "I don't care if we are ever here... I don't think it's worth the effort," Scott told the editorial board of the New York Times. The newspaper called Scott's comments "a surprising admission of defeat, given the company's vigorous efforts to crack into urban markets and expand beyond its suburban base in much of the country." Wal-Mart clarified later that Scott was only referring to Manhattan. But to organized labor in New York City, the welcome mat was never out for the giant retailer. "We don't care if they're never here," said the executive director of the New York City Central Labor Council. "We don't miss them. We have great supermarkets and great retail outlets in New York. We don't need Wal-Mart." But in June of 2008, Lee Scott was talking about New York City again. Speaking at an analysts meeting, former CEO Scott said that New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg wanted a Wal-Mart. "I just talked to the Mayor," Scott told the analysts, "who wants us. And Donald Trump called this week. And he'd like to have us. But in general, New York City hasn't called and said please put a store there. Things get bad enough, they will." This week, a Wal-Mart spokesman stoked the fire a bit more by revealing that Wal-Mart is still obsessed with a New York City superstore. According to Crain's New York Business, Wal-Mart Realty is looking for a site in "the outer boroughs" rather than in Manhattan proper. A lower-level Wal-Mart bureaucrat sent an email to Crain's keeping the superstore dream alive. "Now, more than any other time in recent memory, New York City residents want and need better access to our stores so they are not forced to travel to New Jersey or Long Island to benefit from the savings Wal-Mart provides for working families," the Wal-Mart e-mail said. "Hopefully we will be able to bring a store to New York in the near future." But the history in New York City has not been encouraging. Wal-Mart got nowhere in its efforts to build in Queens and State Island. According to Crain's, the Wal-Mart proposals were killed by "labor unions and community members who worried that the store's low prices and modest wages would eat into the market share of unionized retailers like Pathmark, Key Food and Duane Reade and put mom-and-pop shops out of business." Wal-Mart this week is suggesting that the company has somehow changed its corporate ways, and deserves another chance. The retailer's public relations fašade on the environmental, sustainability, and health care fronts are meant to convey that the nasty, old Wal-Mart which invited scorn, has now risen, phoenix-like, to become a new, reformed corporation. "Wal-Mart, for sure, is a very different company than we were five years ago," the company's email to Crain's claimed. That line might appeal to Wall Street -- but on Main Street Wal-Mart appears to be the same exploitive company that has become one of America's most vilified employers. "The reality remains the same," Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union told Crain's. "Wal-Mart is not welcome in New York City, and it should not try to take advantage of these economic times to slither in."

What you can do: The image of a slithering snake accurately describes the relationship of Wal-Mart with its critics in the community. Patrick Purcell, asssistant to the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500, was quoted by Crain's as warning Wal-Mart: "You're not going to get into this city unless you come forward and talk to the players, and in New York City, like it or not, the labor movement is a major player." To back up the UFCW's challenge, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn released a statement which said, "While Wal-Mart claims to have improved corporate practices, these efforts appear to be little more than window dressing. Until they make actual changes, providing a living wage and ending the practice of preying on small businesses, I will block any attempt to locate in the five boroughs." Wal-Mart claims that borough residents spend $125 million a year at Wal-Mart stores outside the city -- a number they base on the zip codes given by customers as they check out their purchases at Wal-Mart stores in New Jersey and Long Island. To gain business support, Wal-Mart has become a member of the Partnership for New York City, whose goal is to "enhance the economy of the five boroughs of New York City and maintain the city's position as the center of world commerce, finance and innovation. The Partnership is a nonprofit membership organization comprised of two hundred CEOs from New York City's top corporate, investment and entrepreneurial firms. Membership in the 200 Partners is open to a "global business entity with a presence in New York City." The Partnership is Chaired by the CEO of Goldman Sachs, and media magnate Rupert Murdoch. There are very few retailers on the Partners list, which is dominated by banks, investment houses, and real estate firms. Macy's is on the list, as well as Affiliate Partner Bloomingdale's. So is Vornado Realty Trust, which tried to bring Wal-Mart unsuccessfully into the city, and realtor CB Richard Ellis, which helps dispose of 'used' Wal-Mart stores. Crain's New York Business is a Partner, but the Wal-Mart corporation does not officially appear on the 2009 Partners list. The President of the Partnership for New York City has embraced the idea of a Wal-Mart superstore in the City. "We need jobs," President Kathryn Wylde, told Crain's. "If Wal-Mart is prepared to come in and make the investment, we should all welcome that, and the unions should make their case for why workers need to organize." The UFCW is prepared to make their case -- and more. "The day they open their doors in the city, you will see a historic labor battle the likes of which has not been seen since the [1990-91] Daily News strike and the [2005] transit strike," UFCW's Purcell warned. Readers are urged to email the President of the Partnership For New York City, Kathryn Wylde at kwylde@pfnyc.org with the following message: "Dear President Wylde, you have said New York City needs jobs, and implied that Wal-Mart will help create jobs. Rather than asking the unions to 'make their case' about organizing Wal-Mart workers, how about asking Wal-Mart to make their case that its jobs are actually 'new' jobs. The Speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn, has charged that Wal-Mart has a practice of 'preying on small business.' Wal-Mart is not a job generator for the City, and is not a form of economic development for the boroughs. You can't make the case that Wal-Mart means new jobs." Then readers should email City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at http://council.nyc.gov/d3/html/members/home.shtml with the following note: "Speaker Quinn, Thank you for pointing out that Wal-Mart preys on small business. It actually preys on reginal chain stores as well. Wal-Mart has been compared to a retail plague: it makes everyone sick, and kills off the weak. This is not what New York City needs. Help keep suburban sprawl out of the boroughs."











 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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