However, two witnesses representing the so-called big box stores urged caution before legislating anything that would curtail business and Wal-Mart sent a letter but nobody to plead its case. Otherwise, speaker after speaker from Queens and other boroughs painted a picture of low wages, poor employee treatment, few worker benefits, the shifting of workers' medical coverage to taxpayers and a wasteland of boarded-up local shops killed by Wal-Mart.Although the hearing was ostensibly on the subject of big box stores, it was overwhelmingly about a particular kind of big box: Wal-Mart. The Bentonville, Ark. giant disclosed recently that it was considering its first foray into the New York City retail market by opening a store in Rego Park.State Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) led off speakers at the public hearing."Should Wal-Mart succeed with this plan, it will prove to be an economic disaster for our entire city," said McLaughlin, leader of the Central Labor Council, a coalition of union groups opposed to establishment of a Wal-Mart store in Queens."Our battle against Wal-Mart is not lower prices. The true legacy of Wal-Mart is lower living standards for hardworking Americans and those overseas," McLaughlin said."Studies show that for every two jobs created by a Wal-Mart store, the community loses three jobs," McLaughlin said. "When Wal-Mart moves into a neighborhood, it devours local businesses and lowers community living standards."McLaughlin and a number of other speakers appeared at the public hearing conducted by Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton), chairman of the Council's Economic Development Committee, after speaking at an anti-Wal-Mart rally in the lobby of City Hall.Sanders had invited Wal-Mart to send a representative to the hearing, but instead he got a letter signed by Mia T. Masten, community affairs manager of Wal-Mart's Eastern Region. She said she had a scheduling conflict but wrote: "Wal-Mart is eager to make New York City its next retail frontier," said Masten. "We believe Wal-Mart would be an extraordinary asset to the local economy." She said each new store would bring 300 to 350 jobs with wages "competitive with those offered by similar retailers in the area." Sanders said Wal-Mart would be given an opportunity to speak at a future hearing.Co
©2005 Community News Group
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