Two leading mayoral candidates vying for labor support said Thursday that they would not accept campaign contributions from Wal-Mart, the global retail giant that is beginning construction this week on a controversial new grocery store in Chinatown.
Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilman Eric Garcetti made the pledge after pressure from labor groups, which take issue with Wal-Mart’s wage scale and non-unionized workforce. Earlier this year, union groups called on all elected officials in Los Angeles County to give back Wal-Mart money and reject future contributions.
Labor has been fighting the project since the spring, when the chain announced plans to open a grocery store at Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues on the ground floor of an existing apartment building.
Activists pushed the Los Angeles City Council to draft a law temporarily banning large chain stores from opening in the neighborhood. But Wal-Mart secured building permits the day before the council passed the measure.
At an event celebrating the beginning of construction this week, Kim Sentovich, a Wal-Mart senior vice president, said her company was proud to improve access to fresh and affordable healthy foods. “Everything we do is connected with our mission of helping people to save money so they can live better,” Sentovich said.
The city is currently reviewing a complaint about the building permits filed by the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance. In the meantime, activists are organizing a weekend of actions, including a march Saturday that organizers say will be the biggest anti-Wal-Mart protest in U.S. history.
In a news release sent out by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a labor-allied think thank that has been fighting the Chinatown store, Greuel said the march would send a message that Los Angeles “needs responsible development that builds our middle class and encourages the growth of a thriving small business sector.”
Garcetti also said it was imperative to add middle-class jobs. “Los Angeles loses if we run a race to the bottom in terms of wages and working conditions,” he said.
The pair are vying to replace Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who will leave office next year.
As we 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 now three Grammy winners and union members, are joining the growing movement 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 up hundreds of Walmart workers who will march with us on June 30 to demand Walmart treat them with respect and provide wages that can support families.
Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, actor, author and member of the American Federation of Musicians Local 802 Steve Earle shot a short video from a recording studio in Nashville to support our march against Walmart 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, L.A. on June 30.” He continues, “I’ve never known of Walmart to be a good neighbor in any town it’s ever moved into. Y’all stick together out there.” Watch the video here and share it with your social networks! Performing on Saturday, June 30 at the rally for the March Against Walmart and Low Wage Jobs is a Grammy Award-winning musician, singer-songwriters and members of the Professional Musicians Local 47 Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman! Morello, also known as guitarist for Rage Against the Machine, will kick off the rally with his anthem for workers’ rights, “Union Song!”
Also performing on June 30 at the start of the march is Hollywood composer and Professional Musicians Local 47 member Clifford Tasner, of the political satire theater group The Billionaires. The march begins at the Los Angeles State Historic Park, located at 1245 North Spring St. Gathering time is 10 a.m.
Make sure to keep a look out for the Professional Musicians Local 47 drumline as part of the march. According Local 47′s Twitter feed, they plan to “drum Walmart out of Chinatown!”
Reminder, on the eve of the protest, Friday, June 29, Los Angeles-based indie rock band No Age will headline a benefit show for groups fighting to stop Walmart in Chinatown at Human Resources, located at 410 Cottage Home St. in Chinatown, from 7 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are $5 and will benefit groups fighting to stop Walmart in Chinatown. The lineup includes several Los Angeles bands and DJs.
In addition to the proposed Chinatown Walmart, stores in Burbank, Panorama City and Altadena have also been announced. However, it looks like we may have only scratched the surface of Walmart’s aggressive expansion plans for L.A. County.
Based on a study that estimates that the world’s largest company owns 21% of U.S. grocery markets across rural and suburban areas. If Walmart is to achieve its national average market share in Los Angeles County, it would have to open 212 stores across the county, according to projections by the L.A. Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE).
The economic impact of an additional 212 Walmart retail stores in Los Angeles County would result in an estimated net loss of 8,744 retail jobs, a loss of more than $621 million in annual wages for retailer workers are able to keep their jobs, and an increase of 9,400 Walmart workers reliant on Medi-Cal for health care.
Wal-Mart's Legal Bribery -
This piece was previously published in Dissent.
To overcome these obstacles and get its way in the United States, Wal-Mart has resorted to “honest graft.” Its strategy includes giving campaign contributions to politicians, hiring well-connected lobbyists to do its bidding, mounting expensive PR and ballot campaigns to win public support, and buying the support (or at least neutrality) of nonprofit organizations through philanthropy. Why this form of influence-peddling, unlike Wal-Mart’s bribery in Mexico, isn’t a scandal is worth pondering.
Repost from HuffingtonPost.com.