Labor Union Urges Louisville Leaders Against West End Walmart

One of Louisville’s largest labor unions is arguing against any city investment towards a Walmart filling the old Philip Morris site in the West End.

But local retailers and job seekers appear eager for the retail giant to move into an area that many argue is in need of jobs and development.

In a story first reported by WFPL News, sources close to the negotiations said earlier this month that efforts to bring a major retailer to the California neighborhood involve the company.

E-mail messages between council members reference a so-called “Walmart deal” for the 18th Street and Broadway location.

The new store is said to be a larger than average store which would include a training center for employees to at other Walmart locations as supervisors in the retail giant’s network. City officials and TMG, the project’s developers, have declined to confirm Walmart is the company in question and have signed a confidentiality agreement barring further discussion of the negotiations.

Still the local United Food and Commercial Workers chapter is urging Mayor Greg Fischer and Metro Council members to reconsider any deal that invests public dollars into due to Walmart’s labor practices and low employee wages

“Anytime Walmart locates in a community it’s been proven time and time again the community suffers. Local businesses close and the jobs that are created are poverty jobs, which pay poverty wages. And that’s why we’re seeing workers across the country standing up to this company,” says UFCW spokeswoman Caitlain Lally.

Walmart has been the subject of several unflattering stories as of late regarding treatment of employees.

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Walmart broke federal law by punishing or firing employees who spoke out and went on strike against the company’s wages. A number of demonstrations are being planned against Walmart to coincident with Black Friday this week.

Walmart also renewed conversations about a national minimum wage hike after a location in Ohio asked workers to contribute to a holiday food drive for fellow employees.

“This race to the bottom economic policy that Walmart sets the standard for is not the way we should live in the country,” says Lally. “Nobody who works a full-time job should be living in poverty.”

Those in support of developing the Louisville site argue jobs are needed in the West End whether it’s Walmart or not that comes to the location. Bringing in a major retailer has been a goal for city lawmakers since the old Philip Morris plant was left vacant in 2000 and was demolished five years ago.

Councilman David Tandy is chair of the Labor and Economic Development committee, and his district includes the abandoned site. He says no specifics have been shared with him by the Fischer administration or TMG, but that his district is in desperate need of economic revitalization.

“I do know the intent from the council perspective has been looking for some big box retailer to go into that space,” he says. “I’m most excited about the possibility of brining major retail to that part of Louisville, particularly west Louisville. That type of development in that area will serve in my opinion as a major shot in the arm to the area and is part of our overall efforts to bring housing back and other types of businesses back into that area.”

And despite objections from labor leaders who argue that Walmart hurts small businesses and is a disservice to employees, nearby local shop owners appear to be supportive of the idea.

From WHAS-11:

Small retailers across the street say it’s not competition its survival. The more people that would come to a Wal-Mart the better chance they have of attracting new customers.

“You have big business like Wal-Mart here on the corner, you have different crowd, from different areas so it may help our businesses in our area,” Babinta Koita, a local retailer, said.

(SNIP)

… local job seekers at Kentucky Career Center are ready for the retailer to move in.

“I won’t have to ride way out to get employment and it would be nice for the economy and the people that live here in the area,” George Wooten, a job seeker, said.

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