San Jose For the 3rd straight year the hard-core marines of the anti-big box, who whoop up on Wal-Mart, gathered to exchange tips, celebrate victories, and strategize for the next year. Sponsored by ACORN, WARN (Wal-Mart Alliance for Reform Now), and the California Health Communities Network (CHCN) more than 60 site fighters came together, this time in San Jose, to recognize the great work being done in Northern California and in the Merced Distribution Center campaign. The UFCW, Teamsters, South Bay AFL-CIO, Wal-Mart Watch, Global Exchange, Green Party, Big Box Collaborative, and numbers individual community based site fighting groups all were well-represented along with the sponsors.
What is always amazing about this meeting every year is the clear recognition that when it comes to Wal-Mart especially, we are simply winning hands down on the local level around the country, even while the national campaigns seem to fade like last year’s fashions. In California’s Contra Costa County alone site fighters reported the passage of five (5!) anti-big-box ordinances. In central Florida the WARN site fighters have now passed the 30-month mark, two and one-half years, since Wal-Mart has successfully been able to propose and begin building a new supercenter in the 22-counties that WARN calls the “hold the line” zone. In Merced the ground breaking effort has held off Wal-Mart’s construction of the distribution center at least for another year and talking to the SWAT team as they style themselves, there is an increasing confidence that Wal-Mart can be stopped cold there, particularly as citizens begin to reject the trade off of their children’s health versus truck fumes. Throw in reports of work in Mexico to bring together site fighters there and ACORN’s report on the work of the India FDI Watch Campaign, and it is hard not to get excited about the strong legs under this campaign, even if we seem to have weak heads about how to bring it all home nationally.
Some other treats were in store in addition to our great friend and partner Phil Tucker’s grace in opening the meeting and chairing the banquet.
One was the presentation by Jeff Milchen of the American Independent Business Association of Bozeman, Montana. They seem to be growing and getting feisty, so we might be able to find real allies in more and more communities as they expand.
The other was the presentation by our comrade, Ken Jacobs, now with the UC-Berkeley Labor Center and an ace researcher, but formerly a veteran of our New Party work and a great ally in our living wage campaigns. Some facts Jacobs and his team had uncovered about Wal-Mart and its work, particularly in California.
* For every 10 stores Wal-Mart builds in a market, wages will drop overall by 2%.
* For every 1 supercenter Wal-Mart opens 2.6 food stores in the same community will close.
* For Wal-Mart to raise the wages of all of its US-based workforce to $10.00 per hour, it would only cost the company 1 penny per share of their stock.
The site fighters are still slugging away!