Lines are being drawn Downtown in a war over Wal-Mart, which plans to introduce a 33,000-square-foot grocery store to Chinatown. On Saturday, June 30, community development advocacy group, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, plans what it's referring to as the "the largest rally in U.S. history against Wal-Mart," having already released a video against the big-box brand's ambitions in Chinatown. The group's gist is that Walmart is a legendarily exploitative employer who cares not for the history or future of Chinatown and may end up harming the livelihoods of much smaller neighborhood vendors. While not alone in their opposition to the country's biggest corporation setting up in Downtown, LAANE does currently have a contradictory voice coming from The Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Asian Business Association, along with other local business leaders.
The groups in favor of Wal-Mart issued a public letter to residents of the neighborhood, giving the project their blessing and requesting that residents rally behind the new grocer. The plea argues:
For over 20 years we have watched mainstream grocery retailers neglect the space...At 33,000 square feet, this space was designed specifically to provide our community with more fresh grocery options, yet no grocer was willing to invest...However, unions and special interest groups from outside Chinatown are utilizing stall tactics to stop the store from being built and deny our community the benefits of an anchor retailer. They are playing political games with our community. This is not right.
As The L.A. Times noted last year, LAANE has powerful enemies with massive corporate interests at heart. As Time noted last week, a Wal-Mart PR person recently posed as a student reporter to infiltrate a union meeting, proving that opposition to Wal-Mart's many foes can be fierce, sneaky, and well-funded.
Right now, LAANE is projecting the appearance of 10,000 protestors next Saturday, who plan to rally at the site of the L.A. cornfields to voice their opposition. Currently, LAANE's Facebook page is the hub of its organization attempts for the action.
Naturally, we'd love to know what our L.A. readers think of Wal-Mart's plan for a Chinatown store. Is the company welcome here? Or should it be chased away? Let us know what you think in our comments.