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.But...but...79 cents for half a ton of one ply toilet paper...
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.
Oh sure, it sounds bad when you put it like that, but what about all the good things Wal-mart does, like provide jobs for immigrants and women? They are often first adopters of technological innovation and cutting edge scheduling techniques as well as forward looking labor/management relations.
The New York City Council will hold a public hearing on the impact a Wal-Mart would have but the retailer has declined to attend. "Well, truth be told we're really tired of this whole public input thing," said Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo. "I mean, this is Wal-mart for crying out loud. Where do you people get off telling us what's good for you? Umm...I mean JOBS!"
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.youwillbeassimilatedNYC.com, which features positive coverage of the company. "It's true because it's on the Internet," he added.
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. "Well, you don't think people are actually going to let us build in an area that has property value do you?" Restivo said. "Besides, these people are already poor, how much worse can we make it?"
"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.
"$12? Try $8.95," Restivo responded. "Hey Mark, I'll save a place for you on the janitorial crew. Don't bother packing a lunch though. You don't get lunch! HAHAHAHA! That's a little Wal-mart humor right there."
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."
"We may just be an 'alternative destination' now, Courtney, but give us a year or two," Restivo said. "Resistance is futile."