Stop Walmart in Holyoke
The coalition, Stop Walmart in Holyoke, was joined by Mayor Alex Morse today to speak out against the proposed Walmart Supercenter plan for Whiting Farms Road. A capacity crowd was there at Donahue School. The majority being labor union folks and abutters to the site plan… but concerned citizens from all wards, business owners and a number of political leaders were in attendance. See Masslive, WWLP, CBS3 (will update with other sources as they report on this)
The speakers were:
Mayor Alex Morse
Terri Laramee of Holyoke First, the organization of the site’s neighbors
Jason Garand, Business Manager of Carpenters Local 108
James Bickford, Spokesperson for Stop Walmart in Holyoke
Sister Kathleen Popko, President of Sisters of Providence
Here is what I delivered:
I’d like to thank Mayor Alex Morse for joining us here today. (gesture)
I hope you all don’t mind, but I am going to imagine you all naked while I do this. (laughter, hopefully)
I speak for the coalition, Stop Walmart in Holyoke, a group of Holyoke area residents, business owners and organizational leaders with support from Holyoke First; Nueva Esperanza; Fluxmass; Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council; Sisters of St. Joseph; Sprawl-Busters; Holyoke Chapter of the ISO; United Brotherhood of Carpenters; and Western Mass. Jobs with Justice.
Proponents of the Walmart Supercenter will claim that new jobs and tax revenue for Holyoke as the primary selling points for the establishing of a store here. This is ultimately deceiving. While it is true that the municipal will have tax revenue added to the coffers with a Walmart; what they don’t want you to know is that there will be an incredible demand on individual tax payers. Walmart’s success in the marketplace is mostly dependent on keeping the cost of labor lower than other large retailers. They have the least number of employees per square foot of retail, pay low wages and maintain a large number of part time employees to avoid paying benefits. These are jobs that keep people in poverty. We only need to look at a recent congressional report on Walmart to see the impact down stream. Since most Walmart employees are under-employed everyone else foots the bill for their EBT, medical and retirement. It has been shown that the average Walmart employee costs taxpayers $6,000.00 per year… this comes out to $900k to $1.2 million per store per year. Again, Walmart’s success is dependent on social services taking care of their employees. Walmart creates and perpetuates poverty.
Some criticize Walmart opposition as anti-business. No, in fact, Walmart opposition is pro-business and pro-labor. A new Walmart does not create new consumers. Like I said previously, Walmart keeps labor costs extremely low. As a result it has a competition advantage and will certainly draw customers from existing business large and small. Their loss will force them to reduce payroll and possibly end in closure. It will also limit new small business development in the retail sector. Studies have shown that over time each Walmart employee ends up being a net loss of 1.4 employees in area retail labor.
Globally, Walmart is responsible for an incredible amount of sweat shop labor where human beings are considered expendable commodities like we have seen recently with its garment and textile supplier in Bangladesh.
On a national level Walmart’s negative impact is incredible. Walmart’s expansion between 2001 and 2006 accounted for 11% of the growth of the total US trade deficit with China. In 2000, Walmart was sued 4,851 times — about once every 2 hours. Walmart also battled 1.6 million employees in the largest class action sex discrimination law suit ever — the potential cost at the time of $11 billion. The Supreme Court ruling is considered controversial here as it was shot down not on the merits of the case but rather the scale, leading to individual suits instead of the class action. The statistics do not lie… women were grossly underrepresented among managers, holding just 14% of manager roles compared with the more than 80% of lower-ranking hourly supervisor jobs. Walmart retaliates against employees that organized for better working conditions. The egregious business and labor practices of Walmart are alarming especially since it is the largest overall employer in the entire USA, and the biggest employer in 25 states.
One would think that such a large corporation with such amassed wealth and annual profits could do so much better for its employees. We say that we can do better for Holyoke.
Critics of the Walmart opposition will state that lacking an alternative to Walmart is reason for Walmart to proceed. HGE has stated that the sale is in the best interest of the rate payers – will we see a decrease in rates as a result? In pennies? Here’s a potential alternative: With the rising energy costs, the scheduled closure of Mt Tom power plant and the recent alarming reports of Pilgrim nuclear plant – which supplies 15% of the states electricity – shutting down periodically due to rising ocean temperatures. Why not invite local solar experts Stiebel Eltron or Citizens Energy to survey the land for a potential solar farm? This would be something that will benefit ratepayers for decades, much more than the one time sale of the property.
False promises and lack of an immediate alternative are not valid reasons for Holyoke to sell its soul for tax revenue burdened on the shoulders of poverty wage slave jobs. We ask that city government – the Mayor’s Office, City Council, Fire Department, Planning Board, Redevelopment Committee and the Building Commissioner – oppose this plan and that HGE seek alternate uses for this parcel of land they have put up for sale.