LOS ANGELES - January 9 - One week before the nation observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day, religious, political, civil rights and business leaders from New York, Atlanta, Oakland, Chicago, Washington D.C., and other cities held a national telepress conference in which they called on the world’s largest retailer to create good jobs and become a responsible community partner.
In conjunction with the press conference, two statements from more than 100 urban leaders across the country were released—one demanding that Wal-Mart and its CEO Lee Scott change their approach to urban communities, the other calling on elected officials to enact policies that encourage the creation of good jobs in urban America.
A new report was also released today by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) and the Partnership for Working Families. “Wal-Mart and Beyond: The Battle for Good Jobs and Strong Communities in Urban America” documents the extensive negative impacts of Wal-Mart and offers a series of strategies both to hold Wal-Mart and other companies accountable, and to create good jobs in urban neighborhoods.
he telepress conference and release of the statements and reports coincides with a new national ad campaign by Wal-Mart designed to repair its image following high-profile efforts over the past several years to educate Americans about the company’s negative impacts on workers, communities, businesses and taxpayers.
“Wal-Mart has positioned itself squarely in the path of workers and communities seeking to realize Dr. King’s dream of civil and economic equality,” said Tracy Gray-Barkan, Director of Retail Policy at LAANE and author of the new report. “It’s time for Wal-Mart to address the real problems it creates for communities instead of trying to fix its image through multi-million dollar public relations campaigns.”
Wal-Mart continues to meet resistance to its aggressive attempts to expand into urban markets around the country. Wal-Mart employees earn 20 percent less than what the average retail worker earns, and over $10,000 less than what the average two-person family needs to meet its basic needs. The company enrolls fewer than half of its employees in its costly health insurance plan, compared to 67 percent for the average large employer. Wal-Mart moved recently to reduce the number of full-time jobs, establish wage caps on hourly jobs and institute scheduling rules in an effort to weed out older employees and employees with family responsibilities.
“Too often, we hear that for our communities, any job is a good job,” said Rev. Lennox Yearwood, CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus in Washington, D.C. and National Director for the Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign. “We reject the idea that minority communities should settle for low-paying jobs without a future.”
California State Senator Gil Cedillo said the company’s low prices come at too high a cost. “In order for our communities to achieve the American Dream, we need more than poverty-wage jobs. We need economic development that meets the real needs of our communities—good jobs that allow working people to support their families and provide a better life to their children.”