People For a Better Athens (PFABA) is the grassroots organization that formed initially to provide a voice for Athenians who objected to an Atlanta developer’s plan to build a 100,000 sq. ft. Wal-Mart in downtown Athens. Most Athenians fear a Wal-Mart of that size will inevitably harm downtown Athens’ vibrant local economy and culture. In early January 2012, PFABA submitted a petition with over 18,000 signatures opposing the project to the Athens Clarke-County Mayor and Commission. We have also hosted many awareness-raising events including a Reception Celebrating Athens Local Businesses, Rock For A Better Athens, Rally For A Better Athens, regular sign-waving protests along Oconee Street, and open weekly meetings in the upstairs back room at the downtown Transmetropolitan every Monday at 7 p.m. Upcoming events include a 5K Run/Walk For A Better Athens around the proposed Wal-Mart property and through the North Oconee River Greenway and Heritage Trail on the morning of Saturday, June 9. Click on titles to expand and roll over text to find links.
WAL-MART KILLS JOBS
A Walmart in downtown Athens is a threat to downtown businesses, as well as businesses on Oconee St., North Avenue, Broad Street, and in the Iron Triangle.
Small, locally owned businesses have a greater positive impact on local economies than big box retail: http://edq.sagepub.com/content/25/3/277.abstract.
WAL-MART MISTREATS ITS WORKERS
Studies show that Wal-Mart’s often illegal and brutal cost-cutting measures inevitably harm employees. Wal-Mart is routinely punished by the U.S. Dept. of Labor for stealing its workers’ wages. On May 2nd, 2012, the Dept. of Labor forced Wal-Mart to pay 4.8 million in back wages that were illegally denied their employees.
But Huffington Post’s Alice Hines points out that this is hardly the first time Walmart has been caught denying workers overtime they’d earned:
In 2008, the company agreed to pay as much as $640 million to settle 63 federal and state class actions that charged the company with refusing to pay overtime, as well as other types of wage theft.In a separate case in Massachusetts in 2009, the company paid $40 million — the largest wage and hour class-action settlement in the state’s history — to settle a suit that accused it of refusing to pay overtime, denying employees rest breaks and tampering with time sheets.
And in 2007, through another Department of Labor settlement, Walmart paid $33.5 million in back wages to 86,680 workers, many of them managers who were denied overtime.
Additionally, Wal-Mart’s practice of underpaying employees forces nearly half of their workers to turn to welfare and food stamps to make ends meet and to rely on Medicaid for health care. Athens 7.4% unemployment rate is 11% lower than the national average, while nearly 40% of the children in our community live in poverty. We have a preponderance of part-time, low-wage jobs and Wal-Mart stands to eliminate many of those and replace just some of them with their own corporate brand of part-time, low-wage jobs. Civil Rights organizations including the NAACP, ACLU, and the National Black Church Initiative have repeatedly protested Wal-Mart’s unjust labor practices and record of discrimination. Additionally, many of the economic ills America faces today can be traced back to Wal-Mart’s big box business model that has forced thousands of manufacturers overseas and millions of Americans out of jobs. All the while, Wal-Mart wields massive political influence and goes as far as to bribe officials to get what it wants.
Key Studies on Walmart & Big-Box Retail
What Do We Know About Wal-Mart?
UC Berkeley Labor Center
Study: Chicago Wal-Mart Does Not Boost Employment or Retail Sales
The Impact of an Urban Wal-Mart Store on Area Businesses: An Evaluation of One Chicago Neighborhood’s Experience (link to complete study w/ literature review & data analysis) http://google.luc.edu/search?client=default_frontend&proxystylesheet=default_frontend&output=xml_no_dtd&q=walmart+study&search.x=0&search.y=0
NYC Hunter College Study/Literature Reveiw: http://advocate.nyc.gov/files/Walmart.pdf
Are Bad Jobs Good for Poor People? The Wal-Mart Question: http://urbanhabitat.org/node/834
Is Walmart Good for Minority Communities: http://reclaimdemocracy.org/walmart/benefit_minority_communities.php
Jesse Jackson Accuses Wal-Mart of trying to ‘Buy’ its Critics: www.blackpressusa.com/News/Article.asp?SID=3&Title=Hot%2BStories&NewsID=10859
NAACP Legal Defense Fund on Dukes v. Walmart: www.naacpldf.org/case-issue/dukes-v-wal-mart-stores-inc
National Black Church Initiative on Dukes v. Walmart: www.eewmagazine.com/national-black-church-initiative-walmart-class-action-suit.html
National Black Church Initiative Blasts Walmart for Cutting Benefits: http://www.blackamericaweb.com/?q=articles%2Fnews%2Fthe_black_diaspora_news%2F34301&page=4
Walmart cheats warehouse workers: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46597603/ns/business-us_business/#.T14jkYFYWSo
SIZE, LOCATION, DESIGN
The development includes almost 1200 parking spaces that will be free-of-charge to those who shop there. This will also draw customers away from downtown where a brand-new parking deck was recently built with bond money to be paid back through parking fees. The new deck is already generating far less revenue than hoped-for. Selig’s plan will certainly doom the payback plan to failure and Athens taxpayers will be obligated to cover the bonds. Additionally, Selig Enterprises also owns AAA Parking, the company that runs game day parking for Georgia Tech and Auburn University. Selig’s Athens development is ideally located at a mere 3 blocks from Sanford Stadium, guaranteeing game day parking profits of over a quarter million dollars a year and further affecting the income of local small businesses, charitable organizations, and residents who commonly rent out spaces on their own properties on game days. Selig’s primary motivation for including a large Walmart in their plan is not to serve the people of Athens, it is so that more parking will be required and their own profits will be maximized.
This project includes no greenspace and no permeable surfaces and will completely obliterate a grove of mature oak and pecan trees while blasting out a granite outcropping to make way for underground parking. Trash and stormwater runoff from the concrete and asphalt surfaces will threaten the delicate riverfront ecosystem along the Oconee River Greenway and Dudley Park’s Heritage Trail. Walmart’s overall record of environmental degradation is appalling, while their price pressure on manufacturers is undermining the quality and durability of consumer goods and contributing to a sharp increase in the amount of unnecessary stuff Americans buy and doubled the volume of trash households generate. They continue to build sprawling stores on undeveloped land, often just a few miles from older, vacated stores—it is very likely that once the downtown Athens Walmart is up and running, the current superstore less than 4 miles down the road will be shut down. Additionally, Walmart’s campaign donations heavily favor candidates who consistently vote against environmental issues.
Walmart is driving further consolidation and industrialization of our food supply, bringing harm to the environment and small-scale agriculture. Although Walmart is the largest supplier of groceries in the US, yet consumers rate it among the worst grocery stores in the nation. And evidence shows that the presence of a Walmart in a community actually reduces ready access to fresh food as small neighborhood markets shut down and people are forced to travel greater distances to buy groceries at Walmart.
MAYOR DENSON’S ROLE
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST