Labor Groups Sue City Over Chinatown Wal-Mart

The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and United Food Workers Local 770 jointly filed the suit, which alleges the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety failed to notify the public of its decision to exempt the Wal-Mart project from an envir

A coalition of labor groups today announced a lawsuit seeking to block Wal-Mart from opening a neighborhood grocery store in the Chinatown area of Los Angeles.   

The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and United Food Workers Local
770 jointly filed the suit, which alleges the Los Angeles Department of
Building and Safety failed to notify the public of its decision to exempt the Wal-Mart project from an environmental review.   

The plaintiffs want a judge to halt construction on the 33,000-square-
foot grocery store on the northwest corner of Cesar E. Chavez and Grand
avenues, which began last week.   

"It appears Wal-Mart received a special exemption from the city
releasing it from the requirements many other smaller businesses must comply
with. In accordance with California law, and in order to avoid the appearance
of backroom deals, the city is required to notify the public of these special
exemptions,'' said Jan Tokumaru with APALA. "The city failed to notify the

A spokesperson from the Department of Building and Safety was not
immediately available for comment on Tokumaru's charge that department
officials declined the group's request for proof that public notice of the
exemption was made on time.   

"The public deserves transparency regarding what is happening,'' said
King Cheung, a member of the Chinatown Community for Equitable Development. "Why is this city agency being so secretive?''  

Wal-Mart Senior Director of Community Affairs Steven Restivo described
the suit's backers as special interest groups that are trying to block jobs and
are ignoring members of the Chinatown community who want the grocery store.   

"As if ignoring the wishes of many in the community weren't enough, now
it seems the special interests want to take on the city, all in an effort to
block jobs, revitalization and affordable groceries from coming to a building
that's been dormant for two decades,'' Restivo said. "We are confident that
our building permits were validly issued and the Los Angeles Department of
Building and Safety agrees."   

In March, the City Council tried to put the project on hold in the face
of opposition, but the chain received final approval for the store the day
before the council voted to block the project and others like it in Chinatown.
Labor unions argue that Wal-Mart, the world's largest private company
with 1.4 million employees in the U.S., abuses the rights of its workers to
unionize, pays low wages and provides inadequate health benefits. Some
opponents also contend the store will drive small Chinatown markets out of
Wal-Mart officials dispute the claims, saying that the chain's wages and
benefits are competitive or better than comparable retailers.

Richard Cooper July 06, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Screw Walmart, this is horrible
nonoise July 06, 2012 at 02:32 PM
This location is no where near the main Chinatown small businesses. The location is on the boarder of Chinatown on Sunset across the street from the old LAUSD main headquarters and across the street from Burger King. The location will be housed in an existing building on the main floor where there are already apartments above it. And, which city councilmember approved all those apartments? It is ulgy to see a row of apartment buildings at that location. I didn't see people protesting over those apartments and the over development of the area. Protesters should have protested over the over developement. Is that Councilmember Ed Reyes area? Look at nearby areas which have too much apartment and condo development like Lincoln Heights and Chinatown. It looks ulgy. Councilmember Ed Reyes has done a horrible job of stopping developers. The developers are in his front pocket. The place looks horrible. He will be gone next year leaving behind ulgy pockets of over developed areas of apartments and condos.
laurie July 06, 2012 at 05:37 PM
The unions don't give a damn about this area or the building. THey want UFCW dominated businesses to help shore up their underfunded pensioon schemes. If this were a Ralphs or Vons going in there would not be one word said. Walmart wages are compettive and with out the payrool deductions ofr union wagers. they also use a ONE TIER pay and benefits package unlike the two teir system unions use. ATTA GO WALMART BTW I AM A FORMER UNION ORGANIZER WHO SAW THE LIGHT!! Hope the rest of you do too!
mkinla July 06, 2012 at 10:49 PM
It shouldn't just be unions standing against this. Residents and small business owners should be horrified as well. There's plenty of evidence that when a Walmart moves into an area, the rest of the surrounding community of small businesses go down in flames. As for the canned union argument, unions are people, Laurie, as a former organizer you should know that. You think the Walton family gives a damn about the East LA/Chinatown area? At least the employees in the UFCW EARN a pension, and healthcare, and earn enough to pay taxes. Thanks to their collective effort, they don't drain the system like the near-slave labor wages that WalMart pays. "$943 — average annual cost to taxpayers of providing Medicaid, food stamps, and cash assistance for each Walmart employee" "In 2006, the big-box retailer promised to bring jobs to the cash-strapped community. But according to a landmark study by Loyola University, the company's rhetoric didn't match reality: Within two years of Walmart's opening its doors, 82 local stores went out of business. Instead of growing Chicago's retail economy, Walmart simply overtook it - absorbing sales from other city stores and shuttering dozens of them in the process." sources: http://grist.org/business-technology/2011-11-07-walmart-by-the-numbers-green-vs-growth/ http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-05-04/local/29523684_1_small-businesses-david-neumark-city-stores http://www.salon.com/2011/12/08/the_insane_wealth_of_walmarts_founding_family/
nonoise July 07, 2012 at 06:14 AM
Walmart pays the same as any small business with no pensions, little vacation, no health insurance benefits, ect. There are millions of small businesses that can not afford any perks. Those that like certain small businesses will still shop there. A lot of low income people in the area will shop there as there are no other supermarkets in the area. The closest thing to a supermarket is grand central market. I don't think that the employees down at grand central market are unionized and/or get benefits.
Anthony D Howard July 07, 2012 at 06:45 AM
you must be a union but hole. as a fact that no one wants to talk about it takes 4 union people 6x longer to do the work of one nonunion worker. and you want to bitch about prices going up.
mkinla July 07, 2012 at 04:14 PM
NO Anthony, I am not in a union but am from a family that benefitted from union membership. My dad worked his ass off for years as a pipe fitter and was able to retire with a solid pension that he earned, fantastic healthcare that saved my life when I was a kid, and a community of coworkers who rally around any family in trouble.  I only wish I could be in a union! The key to Walmart is their monopoly. It's self sustaining. Small business collapse around them and workers have no where else to go. They successfully kill competition by employing desperate folks for scant pay. They spend millions lobbying and buying politicians (apparently the LA City Council?) to fix the playing field to benefit themselves. You can call me names all you want, spread mistruths about your fellow American union workers being lazy,   but the facts are indisputable: Walmart kills jobs, lowers the bar for others and destroys small businesses. It just does.
nonoise July 09, 2012 at 03:49 AM
There is some truth to both sides of the arguement. There is good and bad. That is the way America works. The free market must work.
Mr.Diamond July 18, 2012 at 01:52 AM
I worked through college at WalMart and a couple years after before finding a full time job in my field. They paid as much as or more than all of the other places in the towns I worked and they do offer benefits. As for running jobs out of Chicago in 2006 that would also be around the time our economy started to change after the elections that year things really went down hill and have never gone up. So blaming WalMart for the loss of all the jobs is a little extreme. If this project is stopped the owner of the building will be left with a big open spot that cannot be filled and probably on the hook for the money paid to start the project. It may not be the perfect fit for the area, but any job is better than none right now and the owner would love to start collecting rent. If the market decides it does not belong then the store will not last.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something