Walmart at Willets Point? No Way, No How
by Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras
Aug 22, 2012 | 16971 views | 0 0 comments | 467 467 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It was recently reported that Walmart, the low-wage retailer, is trying to sneak into New York City at the Willets Point development. Walmart has a history of discrimination, poor pay, anti-union behavior and abuse that is not welcome in my community, or any part of our city.

Walmart’s lobbyists are sneaking around looking for possible locations across the five boroughs. Instead of being honest about its intentions, the retailer is pushing a PR campaign to try and clean-up its contaminated image in order to win approval.

We can’t allow this to work.

As the chair of the Women’s Issues committee in the New York City Council, I am deeply troubled by Walmart’s terrible record with women. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Walmart over allegations of sexual harassment of, and discrimination against, female employees.

The average woman working at Walmart, if they are permitted to work full-time, earns a salary so low that it puts her family below the poverty level. Many female employees at Walmart use food stamps in order to feed their families.

And according to the National Organization of Women, Walmart’s ineffective health insurance plan does not provide contraceptive coverage - an essential part of many women’s health needs.

The implications of having a Walmart store in our city are very clear: poverty-wage jobs, destruction of local small businesses, increased pollution, and streets clogged with traffic.

Walmart has a business model that relies on low wages, substandard benefits and anti-competitive behavior. They’ve destroyed countless neighborhood stores across the country with this business model, and its made their owner billionaires many times over.

Walmart claims they’ll treat New Yorkers differently - that they’ll pay more, treat workers better and generally not behave like they have in every other community across the country.

If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Do they really expect us - savvy New Yorkers - to believe that if we let Walmart get their foot in the door of the greatest city in the world they won’t do what they’ve done everywhere else? The truth is Walmart refuses to reveal its starting wages or agree to allow stores to unionize.

We have a real opportunity at Willets Point. We can make it an incredible site that all New Yorkers can enjoy. It can enhance living standards for our community, and with the right businesses, create hundreds of new jobs with wages that will allow families to support themselves.

Our community does not need a big-box, low-road employer that puts profits before people. We should strive to make Willets Point an example for other development sites throughout the city by taking into account what local residents want and ensuring their best interests our first priority.

Walmart refuses to meet with community members, leaders, and elected officials to discuss its plans. It’s time for the company to come clean with its intentions and stop sneaking around.

If it doesn’t have anything to hide, then what is it so afraid of?

The plan for Willets Point moving forward must be sustainable, fair, and provide long-term economic growth for our community. With the help of my colleagues on the City Council, I am determined to make sure Walmart has no entryway into Willets Point, or any other development site in the city.

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