Retail giant Wal-Mart celebrated the start of construction on its controversial new store in Chinatown on Tuesday, days before a planned march that labor organizers are touting as the largest anti-Wal-Mart demonstration in U.S. history.
At a news conference inside a cavernous storefront that is being converted into a 33,000-square-foot grocery store, Wal-Mart officials and local business leaders exchanged traditional Chinese good-luck offerings as local performers did a dragon dance. Kim Sentovich, a Wal-Mart senior vice president, told the crowd that her company was proud "to improve access to fresh and affordable healthy foods.
I shop at my local WalMart for groceries. One of the things I like is that they ensure that fresh, local produce - mmm,mmm,mmm, LOVE those Grainger county tomatoes! - is available in the store. The aisles are well-stocked and clean. If the deliman (or woman) slices a little more than you requested - where the scale shows 1.2 pounds versus the one pound you wanted - that overage is included free to you. The staff is friendly, and if I see this one older Indian gentleman is on his register, I go out of my way to get in his line because he is so pleasant. And I like their prices.
In short, WalMart provides a shopping experience for the consumer.
And screw them, right?
Labor unions and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, an advocacy group that opposes Wal-Mart's low wages and nonunion workforce, have been fighting the project since the chain announced earlier this year that it planned to open a grocery store at Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues on the ground floor of an existing apartment building.
Activists pushed the Los Angeles City Council to draft a law temporarily banning large chain stores from opening in the neighborhood. But the council's 13-0 vote came too late. Wal-Mart had secured building permits the day before, giving it the green light to move forward on the project.
The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance has filed an appeal with the city, which is under review. In the meantime, activists are organizing a weekend of anti-Wal-Mart actions, including a protest concert Friday night and a big march Saturday.
So amah living on a fixed income can support the SEIU, right?
George Yu, president of the Chinatown Business Improvement District, said after the news conference that most people in the neighborhood support the new store. "If our local residents had told us, 'We don't want this in Chinatown,' I would have been out in front against it," he said.