The threat of a Supercenter at a site in Inglewood near Hollywood Park and the Forum moved UFCW to press city officials for an ordinance restricting grocery sales there. The ordinance passed but was later rescinded, and Wal-Mart has now gathered signatures for a March ballot measure that effectively would bar the city from ever again legislating over what the company can and cannot do in town.
Now Los Angeles is preparing a similar ordinance. It would permit big-box retailers like Wal-Mart to sell groceries — but only if they pay their workers prevailing wages and medical benefits for dependents as well as associates. Nothing about Wal-Mart’s history or corporate culture suggests the company would ever agree to such restrictions.
“The whole competitive landscape has changed,” Levenfeld said.
Icaza said that in contract talks under way now between UFCW and the three major chains, management has not named Wal-Mart as a threat, but repeatedly says the stores must remain “competitive.” The term can be interpreted as meaning low labor costs either to maximize the companies’ stock price on Wall Street, or to compete with future Wal-Mart Superstores in L.A. — or both.
“Every proposal they bring forward, they say they want to be competitive,” Icaza said. “I guess that means whatever model Wal-Mart has for medical care we’re now supposed to accept. I said to them, ‘Did Wal-Mart help you prepare these proposals?’ I think they’re using Wal-Mart as an excuse.”