May 9, 2012, Vol: 19, No: 19
Walmart hasn’t announced any plans to open a Seattle store, and Seattle city officials haven’t publicly courted the company.
But just to make sure, local union activists, wary of the impact the world’s largest retailer could have on the local economy, are doing some investigating.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 (ufcw) filed Freedom of Information Act requests April 27 with Mayor Mike McGinn’s office, the city legislative office, the city’s planning department and the Office of Economic Development to determine if city officials have met or corresponded with Walmart representatives.
Walmart, union groups say, is unwelcome here. The company’s recent bribery scandals in Mexico and reputation for paying low wages with no medical benefits make it a poor fit for the community, said Elena Perez, spokesperson for the Puget Sound branch of Making Change at Walmart, a ufcw-funded nonprofit that campaigns for Walmart to change its business and employment practices.
In January, Perez and about 50 others protested in Bellevue’s Kelsey Creek neighborhood, demanding that Walmart and a local property owner come clean with plans to open a store there.
Walmart owned up to that one in January, also announcing a store opening in Factoria. Last summer, the company announced plans for a 24-hour Walmart in Tacoma, disregarding efforts by the Tacoma City Council to ban big-box stores.
Despite its history of working in rural and suburban markets, the retail behemoth has moved into metropolitan areas such as Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
Perez said the company has already saturated rural populations.
“It’s like a shark that has to keep swimming to survive,” Perez said.
And this shark bites, say labor and social justice activists.
Walmart in Seattle could cause a $13 million loss in economic output and a $15 million loss in labor income, according to Puget Sound Sage, a labor- and church-financed nonprofit.
The group based its figures on the possibility of a Walmart opening at an abandoned grocery store in the Skyway neighborhood.
In a statement in April, Walmart officials questioned the report’s results but did not deny their interest in Seattle.
Responding to questions posed by Real Change, Walmart spokesperson Steven Restivo said there are no new projects to announce in Seattle, but the company is committed to offering “solutions for our customers in Seattle.”<< Back to Article Details