Los Angeles (March 8, 2012) — In response to Walmart’s announced plan for a new grocery store in the city’s Historic Chinatown, Walmart employees held a press conference against the company’s expansion at the Department of Public Social Services.
The employees cited business practices that force working families to live in poverty and do without vital health benefits as the reason for their opposition.
Walmart’s proposal has also sparked opposition from community groups who say the City of Los Angeles and its residents cannot afford to subsidize the poverty wages Walmart pays while making huge profits. Walmart leads the private sector in having the highest number of employees on public assistance in a third of the nation, with workers earning an estimated 12.4 percent less than retail workers as a whole.
Over 700,000 Walmart employees do not have health care coverage from their employer, with Walmart refusing to provide benefits to part-time employees. By aggressively driving down costs and paying substandard wages, Walmart has further concentrated poverty in low-income communities such as those near its Crenshaw and Baldwin Park stores.
“I’ve seen many of my co-workers driven out of their jobs so that Walmart could reduce the number of insured employees,” said Angie Rodriguez, Walmart employee in Baldwin Park. “We know that Walmart can afford to pay hard-working employees fair wages so that they don’t have to rely on welfare to make ends meet.”
“In 17 states across America, Walmart is responsible for having the most employees of any private employer on welfare,” said Roxana Tynan, Executive Director of Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), “So our concern is the lack of job standards in place. Without them, Walmart, in a rush to profit off of disadvantaged communities like Chinatown, will keep them mired in poverty.”
In the early 1990’s, the development that is the proposed site for the store received a $4 billion subsidy mandating the creation of permanent, quality jobs for low-income residents. Greg Fletcher, Walmart employee in Duarte said, “Walmart needs to stand by the requirement that taxpayers funded—if you want to expand your stores, give your employees good, full-time, permanent jobs that allow us to stand on our own and support our families.”
Combining dynamic research, innovative public policy and the organizing of broad alliances, LAANE’s work has helped tens of thousands of people attain better wages and health benefits, and has improved public health for hundreds of thousands of people across the region. LAANE led the coalition of community, clergy, and labor groups to win the “Superstores Ordinance” in the City of Los Angeles and Inglewood in 2004. For more information on LAANE, visit www.laane.org.
Making Change at Walmart is a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy. Anchored by the UFCW, we are a coalition of Walmart associates, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, womens’ advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials, and ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is vital for the future of our country.