It’s no secret that city planners in communities across the nation have resisted attempts by Wal- Mart to open its doors. Wal-Mart has faced the strongest resistance to its “Super Centers” – its version of one-stop-shopping for food, clothing, electronics and every other imaginable product. It recently announced plans to open 40 new Super Centers in California.
Many city planners across California are undoubtedly preparing for a full-scale war against Wal- Mart. They’ll argue that Wal-Mart Super Centers must be stopped because they put local mom-and-pop stores out of business and create only low-paying, non-union jobs. On those grounds, cities have fought tooth and nail to keep Wal-Mart out, sometimes succeeding and more often (thankfully) failing.
One small community in California, the city of Turlock, has already declared war on Wal-Mart’s proposed Super Center there. But Turlock has gone to new lows. Its City Council passed an ordinance banning most new or expanding discount stores that exceed 100,000 square feet and devote more than 5 percent of their space to groceries and other nontaxable goods.
Sound familiar? Wal-Mart’s superstore fits the bill to a T – and that’s no coincidence. Turlock specifically targeted Wal-Mart with thisordinance.
Tired of having to defend its right to do business, Wal-Mart has gone on the offensive this time and sued to have the law struck down.
What is lost in all of the legal wrangling surrounding Wal-Mart’s right to do business is the long list of benefits it showers on communities.
Wal-Mart is not, as many city planners would have their constituents believe, an evil empire intent on decimating local businesses, exploiting local workers and reaping an “undeserved” profit to line the pockets of its fat-cat executives.
Instead, it provides incredibly low prices for some of the most basic goods and services – something that benefits everyone in the community, especially the poorest segments of society who can afford only Wal-Mart prices.
It also has provided an impressive return for stockholders, who include Wal-Mart workers themselves and Main Street investors (some, no doubt, living right in Turlock).
But that’s just stating the obvious.
What many don’t know – and what city planners are afraid to reveal – is that Wal-Mart treats its employees quite well. Not only do employees receive competitive wages, they are also offered profit- sharing, a 401(k) plan, paid vacation and holidays, a discount card, medical and dental coverage, life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment coverage, short- and long-term disability insurance, free confidential professional counseling and assistance, scholarship bonuses and child-care discounts.
True, Wal-Mart does not have a union. But, again, that generally proves a benefit to the community at large. A unionized work force can cause prices to rise and customer service to decline, not to mention the threat of strikes and the social unrest for which unions are infamous.
Can anyone forget the mass strikes at unionized supermarkets in Southern California last year that made shopping a nightmare? Or the breakdown in negotiations between US Airways and its pilots union that recently forced the airline to go into bankruptcy?
Communities must see city officials’ relentless attacks on Wal- Mart for what they are: a paternalistic policy that does nothing but deny entry-level employment opportunities to the those who need them the most; an attempt to keep out basic goods at affordable prices; and an assault on the right of Wal-Mart to do business.
Free markets and freedom of choice: These American values are the true victims of this war on the Wal-Marts of this world. Consumers must let their voices be heard and tell their city representatives to stop discriminating against businesses, large and small.
It’s the American thing to do.