Monday, December 04, 2006

Monsey Rallies: Wal-Mart Out of the Neighborhood!

In Monsey, New York yesterday, a coalition of residents, businesses and labor rallied against the proposed Wal-Mart supercenter right on the Route 59 site that the developer has slated for building the giant store. As today's frontpage Rockland Journal News story points out the rally was organized by the Alliance and was also spearheaded by Assemblywoman-elect Ellen Jaffee as well as Legislator-elect Bruce Levine.

The size and scope of the demonstration was achieved, however, through the combined efforts of Local 1262, with its president Harvey Whille, and the efforts of a great many Monsey residents who came out with their babies in carriages to protest the impact that the super- center would have on traffic and community quality-of-life.

The traffic issues keep on predominating because the developer's consultants appear poised to minimize the impact that the roughly 3,000,000 additional cars would bring to the already clogged local arteries. As the News reports, "...detractors repeated their concerns yesterday that the store would bring more traffic to the already congested two-lane section of Route 59. Some said that was particularly worrisome for members of the Orthodox Jewish community who walk there on the Sabbath."

The impact on local businesses was also a concern expressed yesterday and we would direct everyone's attention to the great new book by Stacy Mitchell, "The Big Box Swindle," that points out how stores like Wal-Mart, unlike the local businesses, suck the dollars out of the community. In a rather funny remark a Wal-Mart spokesperson, in comments to the paper, denied that the company had any negative impact on local stores; "Wal-Mart stores 'actually bring increased customer flow to small businesses in the areas'..."

The rally, the first with a number of others to follow, was designed to heighten local awareness that this development was definitely not a "done-deal." With the developer's environmental study just starting to wend its way through the review process, the Alliance plans to continue to galvanize community opposition to the Walmonster.

In a related story in today's NY Times, the paper reports on the effort by Wal-Mart to say "Thank You to Workers." Reacting to the stinging criticisms leveled by the WakeUpWalMart group, the company is making nice to its workers by extending them additional discounts during the holidays and by providing them with a mechanism to air their grievances.

Given the company's labor policies, however, it is likely that the grievance procedures will be perceived as a way for the Walmonster to spot malcontents as a first step toward their elimination. All of these gimmicks are certainly no substitute for a progressive labor policy.