If you haven’t already heard, Walmart is moving into a space on the edge of Chinatown in downtown Los Angeles. The company is preparing to open what it calls a "Neighborhood Market," primarily a grocery store about one-fifth the size of the average Walmart.
Walmart says the Chinatown community hasn’t had a full-service grocery store in years and it’s filling the void. But critics insist that even a void may be better than Walmart.
At a press conference Thursday held by advocacy group Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, Angie Rodriguez criticized her employer of eight years: the Walmart in Baldwin Park.
"Paying poverty wages, denying benefits is unacceptable. Walmart should not be expanding in Chinatown without raising the standards at stores like ours." Rodriguez added, emphatically, that "Walmart is the modern day, 21st-century slave driver."
Greg Fletcher, a Walmart employee in Duarte, says he’s desperate for a job-reclassification.
"What does it take to be full-time? I’d like to be full-time," said Fletcher. "I already work full-time hours as a part-time associate, yet I get none of the benefits."
Both Fletcher and Rodriguez said Walmart has increased employees’ workloads without raises and that the company will do the same in Chinatown.
Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy representatives have claimed that the national average salary for a Walmart associate is $8.81 per hour. But Steven Restivo, the community affairs director for Walmart, says that figure is wrong.
"The truth is, in California our full-time, average hourly wage is $12.69 an hour," says Restivo. He clarifies that the $12.69 hourly salary is based on what non-management, full-time employees make — not part-timers.
Restivo adds that full-time employees make up the majority of Walmart’s workers, and that the company promotes from within.
"Look, we’re really proud of the jobs we’re creating," says Restivo. "We think they’re among the best in all of retail, and for all those reasons and more, whenever we open a new store, we literally see thousands of applications for just a few hundred available jobs."
The Chinatown store will hire 65 employees. It is set to open sometime next year.