Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Live From the Road: We're Here

After about three hours on the road, we're pulling into downtown Seattle for the final leg of the WakeUp WalMart tour.

I've heard a lot of interesting stories from the organizers and learned more about Wal-Mart's detrimental effect on our communities.

I'll be releasing our latest podcast shortly, recorded live and on the road, with the campaign director for WakeUp

For now, here's the fourth installment of WalMart Facts.

Wal Mart's Impact on Communities

Wal-Mart’s growth negatively impact worker’s wages

  • The most comprehensive study of Wal-Mart’s impact showed that the stores reduced earnings per person by 5 percent. This 2005 study by an economist from the National Bureau of Economic Research used Wal-Mart’s own store data and government data for all counties where Wal-Mart has operated for 30 years, It found that the average Wal-Mart store reduces earnings per person by 5 percent in the county in which it operates. [David Neumark, The Effects of Wal-Mart on Local Labor Markets 2005]

The Cost of Wal-Mart’s entry into a community can be significant

  • According to a 2003 estimate, the influx of big-box stores into San Diego would result in an annual decline in wages and benefits which could cost the area up to $221 million [San Diego Taxpayers Association (SDCTA), 2003]

Lower wages mean less money for communities

  • When an employer pays low wages to its employees, the employees have less money to spend on goods and services in the community, which in turn reduces the income and spending of others in the community. In other words a reduction in wages has a multiplier impact in the surrounding area.
  • For instance, in 1999, Southern California municipalities estimated that for every dollar decrease in wages in the southern California economy, $2.08 in spending was lost-- the $1 decrease plus another $1.08 in indirect multiplier impacts. [“The Impact of Big Box Grocers in Southern California” Dr. Marlon Boarnet and Dr. Randall Crane, 1999.]

Wal-Mart hurts other businesses when it comes to town.

  • In Maine, existing businesses lost over 10 percent of their market in 80 percent of the towns where Wal-Mart opened stores. [Georgeanne Artz And James McConnon, The Impact of Wal-Mart on Host Towns and Surrounding Communities in Maine, 2001]
  • Food stores in Mississippi lost 17 percent of their sales by the fifth year after a Wal-Mart Supercenter had come into their county, and retail stores lost 9 percent of their sales [Kenneth Stone and Georgeanne Artz, The Economic Impact of a Wal-Mart Supercenter on Existing Businesses in Mississippi, 2002]
  • Over the course of [a few years after Wal-Mart entered a community], retailers' sales of apparel dropped 28% on average, hardware sales fell by 20%, and sales of specialty stores fell by 17%. [Kenneth Stone at Iowa State University, “Impact of the Wal-Mart Phenomenon on Rural Communities,” 1997]
  • In towns without Wal-Marts that are close to towns with Wal-Marts, sales in general merchandise declined immediately after Wal-Mart stores opened. After ten years, sales declined by a cumulative 34%. [Kenneth Stone at Iowa State University, “Impact of the Wal-Mart Phenomenon on Rural Communities,” 1997]

Wal-Mart destroys the environment

  • Between 2003 and 2005, state and federal environmental agencies fined Wal-Mart $5 million.
  • In 2005, Wal-Mart reached a $1.15 million settlement with the State of Connecticut for allowing improperly stored pesticides and other pollutants to pollute streams. This was the largest such settlement in state history. [Hartford Courant, 8/16/05]
  • In May 2004, Wal-Mart agreed to pay the largest settlement for stormwater violations in EPA history. The United States sued Wal-mart for violating the Clean Water Act in 9 states, calling for penalties of over $3.1 million and changes to Wal-Mart’s building practices. [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, May 12, 2004, U.S. v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 2004 WL 2370700]
  • In 2004, Wal-Mart was fined $765,000 for violating Florida’s petroleum storage tank laws at its automobile service centers. Wal-Mart failed to register its fuel tanks, failed to install devices that prevent overflow, did not perform monthly monitoring, lacked current technologies, and blocked state inspectors. [Associated Press, 11/18/04]
  • In Georgia, Wal-Mart was fined about $150,000 in 2004 for water contamination. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/10/05]

Wal-Mart increases vehicle traffic

  • A 2004 study of estimated additional driving costs of Supercenters in the San Francisco Bay area concluded that there would be up to an additional 238 million vehicle miles traveled per year. [Supercenters and the Transformation of the Bay Area Grocery Industry: Issues, Trends, and Impacts. Bay Area Economic Forum, 2004]
  • These extra miles traveled could cost communities in the Bay area up $ 256 million in additional costs for infrastructure repair and environmental degradation. [Supercenters and the Transformation of the Bay Area Grocery Industry: Issues, Trends, and Impacts. Bay Area Economic Forum, 2004]

Wal-Mart desecrates sacred grounds

  • A nonprofit group that oversees the care of Native Hawaiian remains filed a lawsuit in 2003 against Wal-Mart, the State of Hawaii and the City of Honolulu. It alleged they violated state law dealing with the protection of preservation of human remains and desecration of graves. More than 60 sets of human remains were found at the Wal-Mart construction site in Honolulu. [KHNL-TV/KHBC/KOGG, HI. 7/20/2005]
  • In 2004, Wal-Mart built a 71,902-square-foot store near the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon in San Juan Teotichuacan, Mexico. Teotihuacan was called "the place where the gods were created" by the Aztecs. [Knight Ridder, 10/25/04]
  • In 1997, the Alliance for Native American Indian Rights in Tennessee called for a retail boycott of Wal-Mart after construction began on a site for a new store near Nashville. According to a state archaeologist, the site contained 150 graves. [Fulton County Daily Report, 11/30/00, Chattanooga Free Press, 11/23/98]

Wal-Mart's empty stores are blighting communities

  • As of May 2006, Wal-Mart Realty has listed 320 vacant or soon to be vacant properties that the company is looking to lease or sell. They total to over 25 million square feet. Combined they are more than 6 times larger than the Pentagon building and larger than 440 football fields. []
  • Wal-Mart’s rapid expansion of Supercenters and Sam's Clubs has contributed to hundreds of vacant stores across the country. [“Wal Mart site: Use as is or rebuild?”, Dallas Morning News, 2/20/02]
  • When Wal-Mart decides to convert a discount store into a larger Supercenter, it is often cheaper or easier simply to relocate entirely. David Brennan, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minn, noted that Wal-Mart stores relocate so regularly that, “it is not uncommon to relocate right across the street." [“Home Depot to Move from Old to New Store Next Door,” Providence News-Journal, 8/17/03]
  • Wal-Mart’s stores are uselessly large for most other tenants. An average discount store is 97,000 square feet. Wal-Mart’s Supercenters are on average nearly twice as large at 186,000 square feet. []
  • Also Wal-Mart often resists other large retail stores moving in. A president of a major real estate developer in Dallas said in 2002, “They're not going to be very receptive to any retailer going into it and even if they sell it, they might put a non- compete clause in there.” As one Wal-Mart spokesperson said in 2004, "There are times when it's in our interest to get the property moving faster, but we're certainly not going to give a competitor an advantage." [Dallas Morning News 2/20/02, Wall Street Journal, 9/15/04]
  • Wal-Mart planned to build another 60 million square feet of store space in 2006, or roughly the equivalent of 1,040 football fields or 16 Pentagon buildings. [Wal-Mart Stores, Twelfth Annual Analysts' Meeting, FD (Fair Disclosure) Wire October 25, 2005]
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