February 24, 2003

Walmart comes to rape Palatine

In case you didn't already know, the Village of Palatine has just decided to give Wal-Mart a $3.2 million tax break to get them to move into the old Builder's Square property by Denny's at Rand and Dundee. Here's a short article in the Trib: TIF plan for Wal-Mart decried

Annoyed? Outraged? I am. It would be bad enough if they were simply being allowed to move in; but how much worse that we are giving them $3.2 million in tax breaks for the privilege of destroying the village economy and abusing our low-income workers?

That's a rather bald statement, I know. Let me explain. This will be rather long; bear with me.

Walmart has a history of union-busting. For a company that employs over a million workers, most of them unskilled and at minimum wage, isn't it a little bit surprising that not a single one is unionized? Not for lack of trying, of course. As soon as the very whisper of the word "union" is heard, a cohort of anti-union folks are flown in from Arkansas to harass the organizers and threaten them with losing their jobs. When once, against all odds, the workers in a Walmart butcher shop in Jacksonville, Texas managed to form a union---and two weeks later, Walmart closed that butcher shop and all 179 *other* butcher shops they ran. The NLRB has filed over 40 complaints against Walmart, of which 10 found illegal practices, 8 were settled privately, and the remainder were still pending as of last November. See this New York Times article for further details: Labor Opens a Drive to Organize Wal-Mart

Walmart employees are frequently required to work off the clock. After punching out, their managers make them continue working; if they don't, they will lose their job. One cannot simply blame the managers, of course: they are given a budget and a certain number of things to do; if the things don't get done *or* they go over budget, then *they* lose their jobs. Typically the only way to get everything done within budget is if they require employees work for free for a while. Another tactic for keeping expenses down: they avoid hiring full-time, preferring to hire many part-time workers... to whom they need not give benefits. See this New York Times article for further details: Suits Say Wal-Mart Forces Workers to Toil Off the Clock

There are now a whole lot of small towns in this country that have no significant business aside from the Walmart in town, or even in the next town. Why? Because the Walmart came in and lowered their prices to undercut the existing businesses, then raised them back to normal once all the other businesses had closed. Do you think they won't try the same in Palatine? We don't have to worry about them killing *all* of our other businesses... but I bet they knock out quite a few. And the profits that Walmart gets go straight out of the community. No NYT article here, but a couple different accounts: On Wal-Mart; Lansing board meeting (search for "wal-mart")

There are a number of other objections I have to Walmart. These aren't directly relevant to the question of a Walmart in Palatine, but I feel compelled to list them here anyway: they are the quintessential "box store" and have no local character unless absolutely forced to (Communities force big box retailers to rethink designs, from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel), they employ sweatshop labor overseas (Report on Abuses at Wal-Mart Supply Factories in Lesotho, from the Maquila Solidarity Network), they are the largest music retailer in the country and they censoring that supply (Corporate Censorship: Son of Wal-Mart, from Wired), they stole from a charity and didn't even bother to try to pay them back for it (Donated toys end up on store shelves, from the Boston Globe), they are home to rampant sexual discrimination (Wal-Mart Values, from The Nation)...

And on top of all that, their products are just of low quality (How the 'Big Boxes' Stack Up, from the Washington Post).

Many more links on all of these topics can be found at WalMartWatch . I encourage you to read as many as you have time for---there's a lot there to read.

Now, you might be asking, "but what can I do about it?" The answer is, it hasn't been set in stone, and the Village Council can still decide not to grant the tax break (and in fact, *could* do some zoning tricks to prevent Walmart fom moving in at all). If you live in Palatine, or have some connection to it, visit the village website, find out who your councilmember is, and drop them an email. Explain why you don't want to give $3.2 million to Walmart. Feel free to use some or all of the above language, but remember that they will pay more attention to original letters. Mention this to other people from Palatine---they can contact the council too.

(One thing, though: if you decide to send people email about this, please only send it to other Palatine people! No need to spam everyone else, and letters to the council/mayor from outsiders probably won't hold much sway.)

"All Things Considered, eh? 'The news is next. But first, an awkwardly long interval featuring some bizarre tribal Kenyan mandolin music.'" --Steve Crutchfield Posted by blahedo at 6:47pm on 24 Feb 2003

I have a complaint with walmart. Who do i contact about this issue? Tina Lowery Posted by tina at 7:18pm on 21 Jan 2004
I really have no idea, sorry. Best of luck, though. Posted by blahedo at 9:08pm on 21 Jan 2004
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