Inglewood Voters Reject Wal-Mart


    Inglewood Voters Reject Wal-Mart

    By Sara Lin and Monte Morin, Times Staff Writers
    A bid by the world's largest corporation to bypass uncooperative elected officials and take its aggressive expansion plans to voters failed Tuesday, as Inglewood residents overwhelmingly rejected Wal-Mart's proposal to build a colossal retail and grocery center without an environmental review or public hearings.

    With all votes counted Tuesday evening, 4,575 Inglewood residents had voted in favor of Wal-Mart's plan, while 7,049 had voted against it.

    Wal-Mart hopes to break into California's grocery business by opening 40 such Supercenters statewide. The one in Inglewood would have been Los Angeles County's first.

    "It is a shame that a small number of voters have determined that more than 100,000 Inglewood residents will have to leave their community to enjoy the shopping opportunities that others have close to home," Wal-Mart officials said in a statement.

    The company had spent more than $1 million on its campaign, and opponents had warned that if the company won, residents throughout California should gird for similar battles.

    "What this shows is that Wal-Mart can't dupe people in this city to sign away their rights," said Mike Shimpock, a strategist for the campaign against the move. "If they spent $1 million here and lost by this margin, I doubt they'll try this elsewhere. They'll have to approach cities as equal partners."

    Thwarted by officials in Inglewood and elsewhere, company strategists decided to take their proposal directly to voters, who the retailer said would be well served by new jobs, tax revenues and low prices.

    The expansion encountered fierce opposition from organized labor, which insisted that Wal-Mart's aggressive business practices and anti-union employment policies would result in lost jobs and depressed wages for millions of workers.

    The United Food and Commercial Workers and Teamsters amassed a seven-figure war chest to fight Wal-Mart's effort statewide and vigorously lobbied public officials.

    State Democratic legislators have introduced bills that would force Wal-Mart to provide health insurance to a wider number of employees and pay for expensive economic studies before it could build stores. In Los Angeles, officials are drafting an ordinance that would effectively ban such stores from the city.

    The Supercenter in Inglewood was proposed for an area the size of 17 football fields between the Hollywood Racetrack and the Forum, the arena that once served as home court to the Los Angeles Lakers. In addition to the household products, clothing and drugs commonly sold in Wal-Mart stores, Supercenters sell groceries. Analysts have said that the chain's share of grocery sales in California could reach 20%.

    The prospect of the Wal-Mart expansion fueled the longest supermarket strike in Southern California history. Tens of thousands of grocery workers, who earn an average of $13 an hour, walked picket lines last fall and winter to protest reductions in health benefits that the supermarkets said were needed to compete with Wal-Mart.

    The question on Tuesday's ballot in Inglewood was whether to allow the retailer to obtain building permits without a public hearing or environmental impact study. Many community leaders and Inglewood city officials, except the mayor, said the measure would set a dangerous precedent for cities nationwide by preempting local control over the development process and circumventing environmental review of large projects.

    "They want to be the big gorilla and not even offer one banana," Assemblyman Jerome Horton (D-Inglewood) said Tuesday. "Clearly, this is a test site for Wal-Mart to determine if they can go from city to city to city, preempting state law and local building and safety codes.... I think everyone should prepare for a full frontal attack from Wal-Mart."

    The campaign for and against the measure was intense, and city officials called Tuesday's turnout "robust." Throughout the campaign, opposing sides held street fairs, gave away food and offered free rides to the polls.

    In the days leading up to the election, competition for votes became an open scuffle, with each side trying to crash the other's publicity events. At a Vote No rally last week, protesters rushed a lone man who was holding a sign that lauded the project as "Good News for Inglewood." Protesters tried to use their signs to hide him from news cameras. The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) joined the opposition effort Monday.

    Inglewood city officials and Wal-Mart have been sparring for more than a year. Initially, the City Council tried to keep Wal-Mart from moving in by adopting an emergency ordinance in October 2002 that barred construction of retail stores larger than 155,000 square feet that sell more than 20,000 nontaxable items, such as food and drugs. Supercenters run about 200,000 square feet.

    Within a month, the council withdrew the ordinance after Wal-Mart threatened to sue. Through a group called Citizens Committee to Welcome Wal-Mart to Inglewood, the company succeeded in calling the matter to a public vote by collecting about 6,500 signatures.

    The company campaigned heavily throughout the city of 112,000. It flooded the city with television commercials and mailers depicting happy African American families and calling the development "good news for everyone in Inglewood." The working-class town is roughly split between African Americans and Latinos.

    The opposition included city, county and state officials, and clergy from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Nation of Islam and St. Michael's Catholic Church in Inglewood.

    However, some residents said they were swayed by Wal-Mart's insistence that the Supercenter would bring jobs to town and generate $3 million to $5 million in sales tax revenue for better police services and new community centers.

    After casting her vote in favor of the measure, homemaker Marie Glenn said the retailer would bring needed jobs for young people.

    "I believe Inglewood needs the improvement. I think it's great," said Glenn, 50, who was at a doughnut shop that tried to spur voter interest today by giving away free treats. "The revenue would be great for the city."

    But the longtime owners of Randy's Doughnuts, Larry and Ron Weintraub, both opposed the superstore.

    Ron said that although he doesn't live in Inglewood, a business he once owned in Texas went under when Wal-Mart came to town.

    "I'm sure it's going to hurt small business," he said.

    At a polling station in Darby Park, Carl Hargrove said he voted against the measure. The Supercenter would occupy a crumbling asphalt parking lot just a short walk from his home. Hargrove said it wasn't a union issue to him, it was a quality of life issue. "It would create too much traffic for the area," Hargrove said. "Groceries will bring in entirely too many people."

    At a party thrown by Supercenter opponents late Tuesday night, the Rev. Tony Muhammad said the vote showed that Wal-Mart's "dollars can't buy the people. They wanted a good fight, and they came to the right place."

    Times staff writer Zeke Minaya contributed to this report.
  2. 13 Comments

  3. by   sbic56
    We have a super Wal Mart moving in down the road. There is not much opposition to it, but I would love to see it voted out. We have a super WalMart 20 miles down the road and already a regular one in this city. I hate to see the local food store get pushed out. Wal Mart's produce is usually less than fresh. I am sure they are not as picky as the local grocers. I can forsee in a few years everyone will be complaining about poor quaility products, but then there will be no alternative. Another reason to hate Wal Mart.
  4. by   donmurray
    The BBC 24 hr news channel has an American news slot, and Peter Jennings just showed this item to insomniac Brits It's good to see the little guy win, I wish it were more often.
  5. by   donmurray
    Come to think of it, with the election on the horizon, it's good to see America rediscover democracy!
  6. by   duckboy20
    I despise Wal-Mart even though it is really handy. It started out as a good business with good intentions but since Sam Walton has died the heirs of the company are money hungry and pretty much have a monopoly set up. I would like them to be booted out of a lot of places. They have put way too many businesses out of business.
  7. by   duckboy20
    I despise Wal-Mart even though it is really handy. It started out as a good business with good intentions but since Sam Walton has died the heirs of the company are money hungry and pretty much have a monopoly set up. I would like them to be booted out of a lot of places. They have put way too many businesses out of business
  8. by   Ted
    Another Walmart thread!

    It's fascinating how this huge company inspires strong passion for and against it. For those of you new to this forum and this topic, do a search and you'll be amazed on how many times the "Walmart topic" has been discussed and debated.

    By the way, our local Walmart has been the cause for many-a-closings of local "Mom and Pop" stores! And our local Walmart is not very friendly towards its employees. Very few employees are granted full-time status; very few recieve healthcare and retirement benefits. This may not be true for all Walmart stores. Sadly, it is for the one near my home town.

  9. by   movealong
    Count me as pleased Walmart didn't make it. I don't like Walmart for the reasons everyone else has stated. We have one already and they are planning another super store with groceries sometime soon. I won't give it my business, I'll continue to support the local stores.
  10. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Quote from donmurray
    Come to think of it, with the election on the horizon, it's good to see America rediscover democracy!
    right-o!! :hatparty:
  11. by   nekhismom
    I, too, despise walmart. Now that I am out of school and I have more money to spend, I am happy to say that I am no longer spending the majority of my grocery money at walmart. It's horrible, for all of the reasons mentioned above. Fortunately, our local grocery store's prices are pretty competitive with walmart's on many things.

    However, I DO live in a border town. We have lots of people from Mexico who cross over to shop at walmart. Ours is always overcrowded.....even at 2 am!! We need another one just to make room for locals who may want to use walmart. But I have decided NOT to shop there. I do shop at sam's club, which is almost as bad. But since we don't have a costco or other bulk retailer here, I have no choice there. But I may choose not to renew my membership when it's due.
  12. by   BeachNurse
    In my town there are plans to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter and a Super Target directly across the street from each other..this is 2 mi. from my home. The traffic is already terrible-it will soon become a nightmare.
  13. by   NurseHardee
    Turning People into Profits
    Wal-Mart's Magic Numbers

    The king of discount retailing is looking like a blue chip bargain.

    James Hale, The Online Investor, March 4, 2004

    Wal-Mart probably doesn't set out with the purpose of destroying lives and wrecking the American economy. The company is trying, in a bigger way than has ever been tried before, to achieve three contradictory goals: pay its workers enough, make its mechandise affordable to almost everyone, and increase value for stockholders. In doing so, it has been both a wild success and an utter failure. In its ultimate inability to satisfy all three goals simultaneously, Wal-Mart mirrors the economy at large.

    A list of numbers serves to illustrate how Wal-Mart deals with tradeoffs among the interests of workers, customers, and shareholders:

    Pay scales, high to low

    $2,200,000,000: Total dividends Wal-Mart plans to pay its shareholders this fiscal year, after a 44% dividend increase announced March 2, 2004

    $23,000,000: Average annual compensation for Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott, 2000-2003

    $4,500,000: Average annual compensation for previous Wal-Mart CEO David Glass, 1995-2000

    $70,000 to $150,000: Bonuses (coming on top of typical base salaries exceeding $50,000) commonly earned by Wal-Mart store managers in 2002 as incentives to increase their own store's annual profit, with profit increases coming largely through holding down labor costs

    $9.68: Average hourly living wage as defined by 22 of the U.S. cities and towns that passed living wage ordinances between 2000 and 2004

    $9.60: Average hourly wage Wal-Mart could pay if one-third of its current profits were diverted to pay its U.S. employees instead

    $9.54: Average hourly wage Wal-Mart could afford to pay if it raised its prices an average of 1%

    $9.32: Average hourly wage Wal-Mart could pay if the current annual dividend going to its stockholders were diverted to pay its U.S. employees

    $9.15: Hourly wage that Dana Mailloux was earning at a Ft. Myers, Florida Wal-Mart when she and more than a dozen similarly paid employees were laid off because of "lack of work", after which, as they were leaving the store, they noticed "six new hires -- red vests in hand -- filling out paperwork," and then that next weekend saw Help Wanted ads on the store's bulletin board

    $8.00: Approximate nationwide average hourly wage for Wal-Mart employees

    $6.25: Starting wage for a cashier at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Salina, Kansas, 2003

    $12,192: Income earned by a newly hired cashier working 40-hour weeks (more than the 32-hour company-wide average) for a year, with no weekdays off, at the Salina Supercenter

    $13,994: Minimum annual expenses for bare existence faced by a single cashier with children 4 and 12 who lives in Salina, Kansas and provides as many necessities as possible by shopping at the Supercenter where she works (Expenses do not include child care costs, which, if the cashier finds a qualified provider, are covered by a state subsidy.)

    $6.00: Typical hourly rate being paid by Wal-Mart to custodial contractors for the services of more than 300 undocumented workers in late 2003 (with the contractor, not Wal-Mart, having to pick up the employer's share of the workers' Social Security tax)

    $0.31: The legal hourly minimum wage in China

    $0.23: Average hourly wage at 15 Chinese factories making clothing, shoes, and handbags to be sold at U.S. Wal-Mart stores, 2001

    73: Average number of hours worked per week by employees at those 15 factories

    Some other numbers

    127: The number of Wal-Mart stores, out of 128 audited in 2000, that were found not to be allowing sufficiently for 15-minute breaks as provided for in company policy

    $150,000,000: The total back pay Wal-Mart is estimated to owe employees in Texas for having compelled them to work through their 15-minute breaks over a four-year period

    40 hours, 36 seconds: Amount of time worked in one week by Wal-Mart employee Georgie Hartwig of Washington State, for which she was upbraided by her manager for clocking more than 40 hours, which costs the store in overtime wages

    45%: Proportion of her entire annual wage that a single Wal-Mart employee might have to pay out-of-pocket before collecting any benefits from the company-sponsored health plan

    42,000: Number of Wal-Mart employees in the state of Georgia in 2002

    10,261: Number of children of Wal-Mart employees in Georgia who are enrolled in the state's PeachCare for Kids health insurance program, which provides medical coverage to children whose parents cannot afford it

    $420,750: Annual cost to U.S. taxpayers of a single 200-employee Wal-Mart store, because of support required for underpaid workers -- including subsidized school lunches, food stamps, housing credits, tax credits, energy assistance, and health care

    5: Wal-Mart's rank, if it were a separate nation, among China's biggest export markets -- ahead of Germany and Britain

    45%: Decrease in annual sales of Levi-Strauss clothing from 1996 through the first half of 2003, largely because of competition from less expensive jeans sold at Wal-Mart

    6%: Sales increase in the third quarter of 2003, just after Levi-Strauss began supplying jeans to Wal-Mart

    60: Number of U.S. clothing factories operated by Levi-Strauss in 1981

    2004: The year in which Levi-Strauss will close its last two U.S. plants and stop manufacturing jeans, importing them from overseas instead

    Stan Cox lives in Salina, Kansas, where he is a plant breeder and writer. He can be reached at:
  14. by   Sheri257
    I realize I'm in the minority, but I still don't understand why people shop there.

    I've tried the Wal-Mart in my area twice, and will never go back again. The items I wanted that were on sale were out of stock both times. I had to fight like hell just to get through the aisles because they were so narrow and crowded. It was like bumper cars with carts constantly colliding and jamming against each other.

    Definitely an unpleasant experience. I didn't save any money either. Not worth the trip, IMHO. But I guess some people will do anything to save a few pennies, if that much.

    Last edit by Sheri257 on Apr 21, '04