Walmart is returning to the Rohnert Park Planning Commission on Thursday, Jan. 24, to ask once again for permission to expand its Rohnert Park store into a Walmart Supercenter. Despite overwhelming opposition in 2010 to Walmart's proposal, and despite having lost a lawsuit over the proposal in June 2011, Walmart just won't take no for an answer.
A number of labor, environmental and community organizations have joined together to oppose Walmart's plans. There are many reasons why a Walmart Supercenter is a bad idea, not only for Rohnert Park but for the entire county.
1. Job loss and wage decline in the retail and grocery industry across the county.
2. Working poverty: Walmart workers make significantly less than a living wage for Sonoma County and less than other local grocers pay.
3. Gender inequity: Walmart is being sued for gender discrimination in California.
4. Healthcare and public subsidies: Fewer than half of Walmart workers have employer-provided healthcare insurance, and many must rely on healthcare services provided by local and state government.
5. Increased traffic congestion and reliance on the automobile, which undermines transit-oriented development on the 101 corridor.
6. A significant increase of greenhouse gas emissions.
7. Extra burden on law-enforcement services.
8. Unethical business practices such as the massive bribery scandal in Mexico.
United States Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has reported that one family, the Walton family of Walmart, owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans combined. The two main factors that resulted in such a fabulous accumulation of wealth are the low wages paid to employees, and the intense pressure put on suppliers to keep cutting wholesale prices to them.
How much is enough?
The meeting on Walmart's expansion is on Thursday, Jan. 24, at Rohnert Park City Hall (130 Avram St., Rohnert Park) at 6pm.
Rick Luttmann is a resident of Rohnert Park, a professor at Sonoma State University, and a member of the Living Wage Coalition.
Open Mic is a weekly op/ed feature in the Bohemian. To have your essay of 350 words considered for publication, write firstname.lastname@example.org.