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.