The Common Good
September 2004

Fighting the Power

by Rose Marie Berger, Brian Bolton | September 2004


Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world. With 1.4 million workers (all non-union), it’s also the largest employer in the United States. "Wal-Mart’s workers earn an average of $18,000 a year," reports the Labor Research Association. "Until Wal-Mart emerged as the largest U.S. company three years ago, General Motors held that spot. A General Motors assembler earns three times more than a Wal-Mart worker."

Recognizing the long-term economic devastation that Wal-Mart wreaks in small towns and neighborhoods, communities are beginning to organize and fight back. Early in 2004, the Inglewood (California) City Council rejected Wal-Mart’s plans to build a "Supercenter" in its area. Wal-Mart responded by petitioning voters for a referendum. Voters overwhelmingly supported the city council’s decision and rejected the Wal-Mart plan. Then other cities fighting Wal-Mart took notice. Florida Hometown Democracy, a grassroots effort to restore land use decisions to local citizens, is collecting signatures for an amendment to the Florida constitution allowing all major comprehensive development plans to be approved by voter referendums. In March, a similar referendum defeated Wal-Mart in San Marcos, California, and residents of Milwaukee are currently generating a referendum petition of their own.

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