Friday, November 10, 2006

Wal-Mart and the Bronx: No Thonx

In today's NY Times the paper highlights the efforts of the anti-Wal-Mart forces to prevent the Walmonster from setting foot in the borough. The Times points out that the Alliance, along with the strong support of the UFCW and much of organized labor, has already stymied the retail giant in the two sites that they had targeted last year.

It is clear, however, as the Alliance and its allies have consistently pointed out, that the Bronx is a potentially fertile ground for the Wal-Mart attempt to get a NYC foothold. The reason lies with the concept of "booty capitalism" that we have been outlining. There is a virulent strain of of this operating in the Bronx under the guise of being "pro-development." Nothing better illustrates this than the recently concluded fights over the Bronx Terminal Market (that at least got Wal-Mart explicitly excluded) and Yankee Stadium.

What's clear, and the comments of BP Carrion in today's Times underscores the point, is that Monty Hall has nothing on some of the leaders in the borough. What is definitely going to happen is that organized labor and a good cross section of the Latino small business community is going to go after the BP for his opportunistic stand on the Walmonster.

The Bronx effort, precisely because of the political climate, needs to be proactive and can't wait on the designation of an actual site. People need to be mobilized early and community-based organizations from across the Bronx need to be linked together. As the Alliance's Richard Lipsky told the Times, "The effort here is to head them off at the pass...What's harder in any of these situations is to organize people around a theory...What made it easier to organize in Staten Island is people knew the store was being planned there."

Kudos need to go out to Councliman Joel Rivera who, unlike Carrion, made a strong statement against the retailer; "I'm of the belief that we have to spur economic development, but at the same time it has to be responsible economic development." Rivera gets it and so do most of the other elected officials we have talked to. Stay tuned to a major anti-Wal-Mart event sometime in the near future, one that will be borough-wide and diverse.