Protestors target Granite Bay Walmart
News that Granite Bay would be getting a Walmart Neighborhood Market was greeted with both applause and condemnation by some — and just four weeks into the new store having its doors open, a union picket line is serving as a reminder that the multi-billion dollar corporation remains controversial.
Granite Bay shoppers heading into the relatively new Walmart Neighborhood Market Thursday were greeted by protesters from the United Food and Commercial Workers 8-Golden State. The union’s president, Jacques Loveall, described the demonstration as an informational picket line meant to tell locals about “the substandard wages and benefits” Walmart Corporation offers its employees.
“Our members are prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure workers at Walmart and its neighborhood markets have the same access to good pay, health care, pensions and job security provisions enjoyed by union members,” Lovall said in a statement.
Walmart’s neighborhood markets, which are discount grocery stores, represent a new wing of the company — one that hopes to compete with food outlets in neighborhoods where large-box Walmarts or Walmart “superstores” are not practical. Granite Bay’s neighborhood market opened on Sept. 19. A store was also opened in Lincoln the same week.
Union picketers urged shoppers to take their business to Granite Bay’s Raley’s, or the Roseville Safeway or Roseville Save Mart, all of which pay high salary and benefit scales to their employees.
Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia said customers have spoken about the benefits of her company, both vocally and with their wallets.
“The shoppers have been clear on where they stand with Walmart,” Garcia said. “We’re proud to have opened a store in Granite Bay, and we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from the customers in the community. They appreciate that we’ve created jobs and that we’ve commercially renovated vacant storefronts in the area.”
Garcia added that Walmart is the largest employer in the U.S. and currently provides jobs for 73,000 Californians. She also described Walmart’s pay scale as “some of the most competitive salaries in retail.”
But United Food and Commercial Workers 8 is not demonstrating over retail wages, its members are specifically protesting Walmart’s grocery market wages and benefits, which fall far below union standards.
Garcia countered that Walmart’s company structure would make that difficult.
“We have Walmarts, Super Walmarts, Sam’s Clubs and our neighborhood markets,” she said. “We don’t make any distinction between the employees, which allows for an incredible amount of upward mobility within our overall company. That’s why we have such a large amount of employees who have been with us more than 10 years.”
From Loveall’s perspective, Walmart representatives are painting a rose-colored picture of the retail giant’s employment history, which he maintains has had a direct impact on realistic livable wages in the U.S.
“Walmart has used every trick in the Union-buster’s handbook to deny representation of its 1.4 million workers in north America,” Loveall said. “We have heard about many documented instances of intimidation and coercion, both subtle and brutal, against Walmart workers who aspire to improve their circumstances through union affiliation or collective bargaining.”
He added, “Now other corporations have copied Walmart’s strategies, leading to a boom in “Union avoidance” consultants, a phenomenon contributing to the stagnation of wages and the decline of America’s middle class.”
Scott Thomas Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at ScottA_RsvPT.