2004-12-17 / Community

Weiner Says No To Queens Wal-Mart Store

Wal-Mart’s plan to move into New York City met stiff opposition today, as Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-Queens & Brooklyn) joined by union and community leaders told the mega store to “keep out!”  Weiner released a new study showing that Wal-Mart pays its workers rock bottom wages and relies on cheap foreign labor to undercut local retailers.

Wal-Mart wants to move into New York City.  But according to the Weiner study, Wal-Mart’s are bad news—bad for local shopkeepers, workers and neighborhoods. 

In his study, Weiner says that the average Wal-Mart worker makes $2.12 less per hour than the average supermarket worker ($8.32 per hour vs. $10.45) nationwide, and takes home less than $1,000 a month.

In addition, the health care premiums for Wal-Mart workers have increased by over 200% since 1993.

Wiener adds that 38 state and federal lawsuits have been filed against Wal-Mart for systematically forcing employees to work long hours without pay. “For every Wal-Mart that opens in a community two supermarkets close,” Weiner adds.

Since 1995, the federal government has filed 60 National Labor Relations Board complaints against Wal-Mart for trying to intimidate employees who want to unionize. Not one Wal-Mart store in the United States is represented by a union.

“All over the country, Wal-Marts are springing up and bringing local communities down,” Weiner says. “Now they want to come here.”

But Wal-Mart jobs pay low wages, come with poor benefits, and frequently involve pressure to work long hours “off the clock”-without pay.

When workers try to fight back by speaking out or unionizing, Wal-Mart goes to almost any length to shut them down.

And Wal-Mart’s reliance on cheap foreign labor gives it an unfair competitive advantage over its local competitors.  One Wal-Mart can be the death knell for local supermarkets, clothing retailers, and hardware stores.

Representative Weiner, joined by Brian McLaughlin, President of the Central Labor Council, Stewart Applebaum, President of RWDSU, John R. Durso, President of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW, and other community and union leaders urged New York residents to say “no” to Wal-Mart.

“We are not against Wal-Mart’s competition,” said Rep. Weiner.  “We are not against Wal-Mart because it is big. We are against Wal-Mart because it is a bad neighbor on many levels.”

“Wal-Mart’s low prices come with a very high price tag,” said McLaughlin.  “Should Wal-Mart succeed with their plan to open a mega-store in Queens, it will prove to be an economic disaster for our entire city.  The ongoing national and international union battle against Wal-Mart is about maintaining quality community living standards. The true legacy of Wal-Mart isn’t lower prices. The true legacy of Wal-Mart is lower living standards for hard working Americans and those overseas. The fact is for every Wal-Mart store that opens, jobs are lost to the community, the tax base shrinks, the number of workers with health benefits declines, and the number of workers eligible for welfare increases. Together, we have to confront Wal-Mart to stop the retail giant from turning good jobs into bad jobs, from blocking workers from the right to organize a union, from turning taxpaying workers and their families into welfare-eligible families supported by taxpayers, and from turning workers with health insurance into the ranks of the uninsured. The Central Labor Council is now in the process of forming a broad coalition of groups in support of the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Retail Wholesale Department Store Workers and other affiliate unions most affected by Wal-Mart’s anti-union/ anti-labor agenda.  Together, we will stand up for our workers and our neighbors and say ‘NO’ to Wal-Mart.”

“Wal-Mart’s growth has come at the expense of their employees and the communities where they operate,” said Appelbaum.  “How they handle health insurance is a perfect example.  Low wages coupled with high premiums means too many Wal-Mart workers are forced to get health insurance coverage from the government or through a spouses’ plan.  Wal-Mart shifts the cost of health insurance to taxpayers and other employers, driving up the health costs for all of us.”

“Wal-Mart is a bad neighbor,” said Durso.  “We do not intend to allow them to move into our neighborhood to pay workers below a living wage and proved substandard benefits.  Wal-Mart is a detriment to this community and to my membership.  We will not allow them to come to Rego Park and destroy our community.”

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