Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Wal-Mart Gets a Courier Life

The Courier Life ran a story last week that wondered whether the protests against a Wal-Mart at Gateway Mall in Brooklyn were petering out-and offered the following breathless subhead: “A weakly attended protest could indicate that Wal-Mart is finally closing in on its first New York City store.”

Sorry to disabuse you folks, but the heat hasn’t even really been turned up on the Walmonster quite yet-and once it does, the fan will be full of fecal matter. As one local resident told the paper: “The last thing we need is a Wal-Mart coming in to take over the neighborhood and give out minimum-wage jobs,” said Starrett City resident Maria Maisonett. “We need real jobs that pay living wages, not ones that wouldn’t even allow us to pay our rent.”

But the Courier Life is misreading the situation because the opposition isn’t yet fully engaged: “Organizers of the rally last Thursday at the nation’s largest low- and moderate-income housing complex predicted a turnout of 100 people, but about half that attended — many holding placards decrying the big-box retail giant’s alleged history of employee abuses, discrimination and wage theft.”

The opponents of the retail giant are busy as we speak-organizing their forces and gathering up political support. Let’s not forget that a portion of the land needed for the expansion of the mall is still in state hands-and Democratic conference leader John Sampson represents the district. It was Sampson who marched five years ago with the labor forces protesting the abysmal treatment of workers by Wal-Mart lite BJs.

And let’s not forget that Team Barron-Council member Charles, and Assembly member Inez-also represents this East New York community; and these are two stalwarts who aren’t going to sit quietly by as the Walmonster elbows its way into the community by the back door.

Wal-Mart, in its super store variant, poses a grave threat to all of the area local supermarkets-at a time when the city is trying to encourage their proliferation. If there is one variable that could, by itself, threaten the goals of the city’s “Fresh Initiative,” it is the entry of Wal-Mart-a category killer that has put over a thirteen thousand supermarkets out of business over the course of the past two decades: "The Wal-Mart supercenter -- the principal vehicle of the company's expansion -- is a nonunion dagger aimed at the heart of the traditional American supermarket, nearly 13,000 of which have closed since 1992."

But please stay tuned. What the Courier Life sees as a fizzle, is only the slowly building effervescence of a huge grass roots opposition to a store that would harm neighborhood shopping within a five mile radius of the mall; and forever clog local streets with a huge increase in car and truck traffic. When it comes to a NIMBY phenomenon, Wal-Mart is rightfully seen as a threat to scores of backyards-and those folks will soon make their presence known. In short order, Wal-Mart may need to go to Plan Z.