“The largest Walmart protest in the history of the US” took place on June 30 in Chinatown. The rally and protest were attended by thousands of marchers, and included high-profile performers from the music world: Ben Harper, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, and the popular local band No Age. Grammy winner Steve Earle was in Nashville but posted a video in support of the protesters:
Walmart stunned neighborhood activists by sneaking past the approval process at the last minute, just ahead of new regulations designed to thwart their entry into Chinatown. Now residents and leaders opposed to the plan are fighting back; this protest is the first in a series designed to keep the neighborhood Walmart-free. The retailer is being assailed for its record of poor-paying jobs, disruption of small businesses, and anti-union bias.
By Tony Pierce
This latest round in the fight shows that Walmart is using new tactics to get a toehold in reluctant communities. Los Angeles has for several years blocked new Walmart stores, led by the efforts of the City Council to throw up roadblocks at every turn. The Chinatown store is planned to be a so-called “neighborhood store,” less than a quarter the size of a typical Walmart and built in an existing retail space; this allows the company to bypass many of the permitting procedures designed specifically to stop them. It also runs an end-around on a public review held before the City Council. This added bit of subterfuge has residents, and city political leaders, up in arms.
The protest was organized by an alliance of labor, faith, and community organizations, including the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), Making Change at Walmart, and the L.A. County Federation of Labor. Local gallery owners and artists from Chinatown’s active arts scene were also at the forefront of organizing efforts.