We’re seeing the Walmart steamroller roll from the corridors of power in City Hall to the undeveloped lots in East New York. The laundry list of complaints against the multinational retailer is longer than the L Train, but here’s a few more reasons to fight back against the Bentonville Bunch, and their plans for East New York.
Crain’s Business Daily has a couple quite interesting reads concerning our favorite big business, Walmart. Article #1 outlines how Walmart, seeking to expand into Chicago, partnered with a construction firm owned and operated by an African-American woman so they could better sell their story of how Walmart benefits local businesses and communities of color. Mainly what they did was drive the poor woman into bankruptcy. What happened?
“What happened at the end of the day is that (Wal-Mart) paraded her around the country as its African-American female (general contractor),” says Omar Shareef, founder of the Chicago-based African American Contractors Assn. “And she wound up going down.”
The contractor in question, Margaret Garner, was forced to seek Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection for her firm in the face of Walmart’s shifting specifications and, to put it quaintly, exacting invoice submission policies. The former may have been driven by the shifting requirements of Chicago’s dynamic retail marketplace, but the latter is almost assuredly driven by Walmart’s desire to squeeze every last penny out of their partners and customers.
Cash is King in the construction and retail trades. The longer a retail business holds on to their funds, the greater the utility they get from their cash position, and the better their financial position looks when evaluated by industry analysts on Wall Street. The problem is that contractors tend to use the funds from an existing job to bid on or obtain contracts for the next job. Placing unrealistic and undocumented invoicing requirements on a general contractor seeking fair and timely payment for work performed to specification is second only to an Act of God as being the absolute best way to drive a contractor out of business, which is what Walmart did to Ms. Garner’s contracting business. Walmart feted Ms. Garner around Chicago, and indeed around the country, loudly proclaiming their commitment to local business development and minority hiring practices. Too bad they forgot all about that when it came time to put their money where their mouth was.
Item #2 strikes a bit closer to home. As everyone knows, Mayor Mike’s 3rd term ends in 2013. Politicians in Tweed Courthouse are already jockeying for position, waiting to see who will announce, and when, and who will side with whom when the next crop of candidates sign up to lead the City of New York.
Christine Quinn‘s in the running. Long-rumored to desire political office beyond her current position as Speaker of the NY City Council, her candidacy faces an interesting conundrum: She’s already pushed back NYC’s Living Wage ordinance, so how can she get on Walmart’s notoriously anti-union and anti-worker bandwagon while forming a coalition of working families and small businesses that will support her bid for the Mayor’s Office?
Further exacerbating Speaker Quinn’s positioning as a more independent, more worker-friendly version of Mayor Bloomberg is a recent report (PDF) from UC Berkeley‘s Center for Labor Research and Education. Walmart offers the promise of jobs and low prices to consumers, even though the report states that there is “strong evidence that jobs created by Walmart in metropolitan areas pay less and are less likely to offer benefits than those they replace.” The authors of the study ask a very interesting hypothetical question: What if Walmart paid their workers a living wage of $12/hr?
What happens to workers?
“41.4 percent of the pay increase would go to workers in families with total incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (200 percent FPL). These poor and low-income workers could expect to earn an additional $1,670 to $6,500 a year in income for each Walmart employee in the family, before taxes.”
What about consumers?
“Even if Walmart were to pass 100 percent of the wage increase on to consumers, the average impact on a Walmart shopper would be quite small: 1.1 percent of prices, well below Walmart’s estimated savings to consumers.”
All of which is why we believe Walmart should change their slogan from “Low Prices. Every Day. On Everything” to “Broken promises. Every Way. On Everything.”
So yeah, we’re gearing up to fight Walmart’s push into East New York. We’ve teamed up with Walmart-Free NYC, which is coalition of concerned workers and residents, small business owners, community leaders, clergy and elected officials who are standing for responsible economic development here in East New York and for New York as a whole. We’re against false promises, so we’re against Walmart.
Next Wednesday on April 27th, we’re asking our friends and neighbors in East New York to join with us when we tell the NYC Planning Commission that we’re saying NO to Walmart. We hope to see you there.