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Moving Greenville Forward?

HELP WANTED: Low pay. No company-paid benefits. No chance for advancement (especially for women and minorities). 27 hours or less per week – guaranteed. That’s right, you can still qualify for food stamps or Medicaid! Don’t miss out! Apply today!

Walmart may not be this blatant – yet – in its indentured servant employee recruitment efforts, but the day might not be far off. And special-use permits just granted the retail behemoth by Greenville’s board of adjustment do nothing to slow its arrival.

IMHO long

Walmart is widely recognized as the most overbearing of employers. The 2005 documentary “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price” exposes the company’s drive to drive local shopkeepers out of business; to ensure low pricing by forcing suppliers to manufacture – and thereby despoil the environment – in China; and to prevent employees from organizing in order to gain better wages, more hours, and company-paid benefits.

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Walmart is also among our country’s leading beneficiaries of corporate welfare. It subsidizes what are mostly part-time, minimum-wage jobs with public benefits programs, paid by our taxes. Some Walmart managers actually include food stamp and Medicaid sign-up forms in the packages they give to new hires. So the next time you think your taxes are too high, try telling Walmart, which clears $100 billion in annual profits. That’s right, billion – with a “b.”

 “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price” (available on Netflix, in case you’re curious) also calls out the company’s systematic discrimination against women and people of color.

Now Walmart wants to build two oh-so-innocuous-sounding “Neighborhood Markets” – essentially Harris Teeters on steroids with gas pumps – in our town. Because, you know, we’re short on both gas stations and huge supermarkets.

There was a lot of noise a few years ago leading up to approval of the company’s new “Super Center” on the east side of town. (The one adjacent to the mobile home park owned by the mayor’s wife, in the news lately.) Much of that noise was in protest (to little avail), but there was also plenty of bloviating from certain city councilors about the “jobs” the new store would bring. Given the mounting evidence of how Walmart really operates, why would any self-respecting city welcome one more store bearing its nameplate – let alone two?

Greenville officials bent on “moving forward” don’t seem to get it. Great cities are not built on the backs of their working poor. Great cities are planned – and built – intentionally. They espouse a moral code which includes doing business only with businesses that do business fairly – and whose presence might increase, not lessen, the standard of living for all residents.

Here’s a little verse I hope will run through our leaders’ heads as they seriously debate whether Walmart is the kind of company with which Greenville wants to deepen its partnership:

When Walmart wants to come to town
It’s time for you to double down.
Don’t let the tax-base bump they dangle
Make you reach down for your ankles.

Instead, remember: You call the tune.
Speak the truth and let them swoon.
Greenville’s our town, it’s not theirs
Don’t buy their lies of how they “care.”

The builder of Greenville’s “Walmart East”
Showed us nice drawings, “It’s not a beast!”
– he said, and pleaded, and won approval
What we got’s not pretty – it’s pretty brutal!

Walmart doesn’t truly care.
Always: low prices, low pay, unfair
If you approve its new locations
It’s not good jobs, just more frustration

To a populace already underpaid
More Walmarts just won’t make the grade
“Moving Forward” is the plan, you say?
More Walmarts point the other way!

Anthony Noel is a co-founder of the Guardian. His column appears about once a month, or when something pisses him off – whichever comes first.

Responses (5)

  1. Charlie Ewen says:

    Interesting that no one showed up to speak out against them at the board of adjustment hearing except one woman who thought it might increase traffic near her house. For the record, we granted the permit only for the attached gas pumps. The stores as proposed are in full compliance with zoning regulations.
    (Ewen serves on the board of adjustment – Ed.)

  2. Cindy Reed says:

    I love it. I agree 100%. Allowing more Wal-marts into our town is not what Greenville needs. Look at Raleigh, a city over 5 times our population. They have 2 superstores and one regular store. Raleigh’s stores are also much more than 3 miles apart from one another. Greenville government really needs to think about where we want our city to grow. Do we want to be known for our dollar stores and awful-marts? I don’t think so. We need to pull in employers that really do care for the area and its citizens.

  3. Don Clement says:

    While AN may not have a future as a poet, he’s right to call out the shortsightedness of giving Walmart more space in Greenville. I’m continually amazed that we accept the memes used to promote bad commerce: more jobs, larger tax base, affordable products. Questions seldom raised are: How good are the jobs? What concessions are made that offset tax revenues? How is product quality compromised in the name of low prices? What are the long-term economic effects on the community? How much does a mega-wealthy family in Arkansas care about the well-being of all the small towns they invade for their own profit?

    I have long held that Walmart is an evil company. It mistreats its suppliers, its employees, and now (given growing reports of bad service) its customers. (Of course, it’s treated stockholders well.) Contrary to popular opinion, cheaper is not always better. A good alternative to Walmart is Costco (full disclosure: I own stock). It pays its employees far better, turn-over is way lower, and, as a result, customer service is better. Its management is far more enlightened and less greedy than Walmart’s.

  4. Adele Grier says:

    Certain people talk about promoting buying local and supporting small local businesses. Doesn’t anyone realize the big box retailers are faceless corporations that take money from the local tax base. Sure we have the big new one on 10th St. From what I read in the paper they have frequent shoplifting there like the old Walmart. My cousin works at one in another state and she is always talking about how upper management has little or no respect for workers. She has worked there for 20 years. Why doesn’t she work another place, there are no other choices. Is that the way we are headed here? I won’t go to any of their new small stores. Greenville has so many vacant commercial sites. Why can’t there be a grocery store in the TRUNA area near up town??

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