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Wal-Mart struggles in the Big Apple

By BERND DEBUSMANN JR.
February 3, 2011

Wal-Mart’s lengthy struggle to open in New York City has hit fresh problems — a controversial report that said America’s biggest discounter does not just sell cheap, it makes neighborhoods poorer.

The report concludes that Wal-Mart, the biggest U.S. private employer, kills jobs rather than creates them, drives down wages and is a tax burden because it does not give health and other benefits to many part-time employees, leaving a burden on Medicaid and other public programs.

The New York City Council will hold a public hearing on Thursday on the impact a Wal-Mart would have but the retailer has declined to attend.

Wal-Mart dismisses the critical report — released in January by City University of New York’s Hunter College Center for Community Planning — as “randomly selected statements from … flawed studies.”

The report is based on 50 studies of Wal-Mart openings and comes as the company tries to gain a foothold in some of New York’s poorest neighborhoods.

“The overwhelming weight of the independent research on the impact of Wal-Mart stores … shows that Wal-Mart depresses area wages and labor benefits … pushes out more retail jobs than it creates, and results in more retail vacancies,” the report concluded.

Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo said a store would bring good jobs and good shopping for fresh food to locals. To push its case, Wal-Mart launched a public relations blitz in mid-January with radio and newspaper ads and a website, www.WalMartNYC.com, which features positive coverage of the company.

New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio calls a possible Wal-Mart store in New York “a Trojan horse.”

“It looks appealing to a lot of families who are hurting but it turns into a big problem in the long term because of the net elimination of jobs,” de Blasio said.

Wal-Mart has been trying to open in New York since 2005 but various plans floundered on objections from the community and union activists. Now the company is reported to be looking at locations including East New York and Brownsville — Brooklyn neighborhoods known for high unemployment, crime and drugs.

Dilapidated buildings and empty lots are common and many residents live in public housing in these neighborhoods. The U.S. Census data for 2007-2009 show the median family income in the East New York neighborhood is $33,485; in Brownsville it is $26,802. The median family income in all of New York City is $55,562.

Planned Wal-Mart stores have long met vocal opposition in places such as Chicago, where last year Wal-Mart built two new stores after agreeing to use union labor.

Despite the poverty in East New York and Brownsville, many residents are against the stores setting up here.

“It would be a disaster,” said Mark Tanis, owner of an East New York shopping market about three miles from a proposed sites. “It would have a detrimental impact on our area.”

Tanis said he fears a product he sells for $20 could sell for as little as $12 at Wal-Mart and drive him out of business.

East New York resident Darryl Williams, 43, echoed the view of many, saying, “Cheap things would be nice but if it’s true that we’ll end up with even fewer jobs, that’s not good.”

Courtney Laidlaw, 22, who lives near the two possible locations said, “We have become a society of bargain shoppers and having a Wal-Mart locally will definitely be beneficial.

“The small businesses that can adapt to the socioeconomic times that we live in will find a way to survive. Wal-Mart is just an alternative destination, not the only destination.”

In Brooklyn, one of the loudest anti-Wal-Mart voices has been City Councilman Charles Barron from East New York, who has been leading demonstrations.

“We don’t need Wal-Mart (which) has a history of destroying the local economy and hurting it, not helping it,” he said.

(Copyright © 2011 Reuters

4 Responses to Wal-Mart struggles in the Big Apple

  1. griff

    February 3, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    No shit Sherlock. Wal-Mart buys all of the cheap crap it seels from most-favored-nation Communist China, where corporate-controlled institutional slavery is the name of the game.

    Whodathunk that would lead to lost jobs in America?

    Attention Wal-Mart shoopers! Get a f**king clue.

  2. b mcclellan

    February 3, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Sure wish we had a venue / fair trade agreement to go on Griff.
    My nagger is in the shop.

    • griff

      February 3, 2011 at 9:00 pm

      There’s a Wal-Mart “super” center not a mile from my house. Aside from the very extreme circumstance I avoid it like the plague that it is, and drive eight miles to do my shopping.

      This past fall I was driving past a small elementary school out in Leonardsville, and saw some thing that irks me to this day. I witnessed a rather large woman – an administrator, no doubt – en route back to the building (a whopping 40 foot journey, at best) from apparently taking down the flag. She was carrying it like you would a load of laundry, with a large part of the stripes dragging on the ground behind her like a disgusting bridal train.

      When I was in grade school in the seventies two kids were assigned each week to put up and take down the flag for that week. We were trained in the proper handling and folding of the flag and would be removed from consideration if we mishandled it in any way.

      And we wonder…

  3. Michele D

    February 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I avoid walmart too. I will drive far out of my way to avoid their stores. On the rare circumstance that I do go into one, it is dirty, staffed with employees who dont give a s–t, and their prices are generally higher that their competition. walmart is a company heading to the same fate as Kmart, a once good company. I applaude New York for not allowing them in!