Opponents of a Walmart planned for Los Angeles' historic Chinatown neighborhood announced Wednesday that they would hold the "largest Walmart protest in the history of the U.S." on June 30.
The proposed store would create a Walmart "Neighborhood Market" in a long-vacant commericial space below an apartment building at the northwest corner of Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues, just north of downtown.
Critics say the 33,000-square-foot grocery store -- about a fifth the size of a typical Walmart superstore -- would be destructive to the "cultural fabric" of LA's Chinatown, and would threaten the viability of the area's mom-and-pop stores.
"The concern … is Walmart is expanding, creating low-wage jobs that people can't support their familes on," said Allison Mannos, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.
The alliance, a labor-affiliated group, is part of a coalition opposing the Chinatown Walmart.
LAANE, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the Chinatown Coalition for Equitable Development are working together to oppose the store, Mannos said.
They plan a "March Against Low Wage Jobs" to rally opposition to the megachain. The event is set for 10 a.m. June 30 at Los Angeles State Historic Park, also known as the Cornfield, at 1245 N. Spring St. Mannos said the event was intended to draw 10,000 protesters.
A news conference at 1 p.m. Wednesday to announce the anti-Walmart march brought out Rep. Judy Chu, County Fed leader Maria Elena Durazo and dozens of labor union members.
One woman identified herself as a supervisor at a Walmart in LA's Crenshaw district, saying she made $9.80 per hour, not enough to get off government assistance.
"We must stop Walmart," said Chu, a Chinese-American Democrat who represents an area of east of Chinatown in the San Gabriel Valley.
Residents of Chinatown who witnessed the Wednesday event were puzzled -- because many think the Walmart Neighborhood Market would be boon to the area. Even nearby supermarket Wing Hop Fung says it would welcome new shoppers in the area.
"They don't live here," severly longtime residents said in Mandarin of the protesters.
"The only reason we support this is because it's convenient for us," said John Hsu, who stood with other men in front of the apartment complex where the Walmart would open.
"It's been vacant for 20-plus years," said George Yu of Chinatown Business Improvement District. "What good does 34,000 square feet of vacant space do for a community?"
In a statement issued in response to the march announcement, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., spokesman Steven Restivo said the corporation is committed to the Chinatown location.
"While the special interests are focused on publicity stunts, we remain committed to serving customers in Los Angeles and will continue to work on things residents care about like jobs, healthier foods and sustainability," Restivo said. "Our commitment won’t change and we look forward to opening a new Walmart Neighborhood Market in Panorama City later this year and another in downtown L.A. in 2013."
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. announced plans for the Chinatown store in February, taking local leaders and labor groups by surprise. On its website, Walmart said the store would be provide "a quick and convenient shopping experience for customers who need a broad assortment of fresh produce, meats and dairy products, frozen foods, dry goods, pharmacy and consumables."
In March, the Arkansas-based chain earned construction permits for the store, a day before the City Council voted to create a moratorium originally intended to prevent Walmart from moving in.
The ordinance that would enact that moratorium is still being drawn up, and LAANE's Mannos contended it could still be applied to the proposed Chinatown Walmart.
A group called the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, with support from LAANE, has filed an appeal to prevent the city from granting a certificate of occupancy to the planned store. That appeal process is continuing. Walmart would need the certificate of occupancy to begin doing business at the location.
The Walmart location is supported by the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
The LA Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday announced that the Walmart Foundation had donated $800,000 to create 447 summer jobs for local youth.