Expensive at any price

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Wal-Mart strikes again. This time the giant conglomerate has proposed to build a Wal-Mart store in Northridge at Nordhoff, and Tampa where Levitz and Best once stood. Wal-Mart currently has two of its stores in neighboring cities, Porter Ranch and Van Nuys. Similarly, Palmdale, a city in the Antelope Valley and more than 45 minutes away from Northridge, has seen its fair share of Wal-Mart proposals. The city has two Wal-Mart stores within a five-mile radius of each other. A Wal-Mart Supercenter, which sells groceries, and is deemed by local supermarket competitors as their greatest threat, recently opened in Palmdale less than one mile from another Wal-Mart.

One might wonder who will put an end to Wal-Mart and its efforts to overrule and overhaul an entire valley. Various boycotts, rallies and picket lines at several Wal-Mart stores have occurred across the state and country. Residents in Inglewood rose up against a proposed building plan for a Wal-Mart Supercenter and succeeded. Sixty percent of its residents voted against the proposed Supercenter and Wal-Mart was not built.

Still, for many grassroots organizations, which actively oppose the mega-corporation, Wal-Mart is often too powerful to overcome. Both Northridge East and West Neighborhood Councils have made attempts to divert Wal-Mart’s plan to build its store in Northridge but Wal-Mart’s low prices and big money may have won this battle. The neighborhood councils agreed to a mitigation package that would limit Wal-Mart’s store operations.

The Pac-Man analogy could be applied to Wal-Mart: It consumes any and every thing it comes across. Wal-Mart takes a bite out its competitors, its workers, and every city it enters.

In 2004, Wal-Mart announced its plans to build a store next to Mexico’s Teotihuacan pyramids. Residents near the pyramids –considered to be sacred parts of Mexico’s history – protested against Wal-Mart. If built, the Wal-Mart store would be visible from the top of the pyramids. Wal-Mart’s plans to build a store near these sacred pyramids may very well be deemed as a sign of cultural and historical ignorance. Just imagine, if Wal-Mart announced next month that they would be building its store less than a mile from Mount Rushmore or Niagra Falls. Americans would be outraged, and would demand President Bush or the Senate to put a stop to such a ridiculous proposal.

Why would anyone support a proposal to build a Wal-Mart in their town or city? One reason remains strong among loyal Wal-Mart customers: low prices, cheap bargains. When Wal-Mart patrons are asked why they have chosen to shop at Wal-Mart, the most common response is ‘You can’t beat its low prices.” Wal-Mart’s slogan happens to be everyday low prices.

But at what expense do these low prices come? Wal-Mart is infamously known for being anti-union, offering low wages with minimal benefits, and sexist. According to Wal-Mart, a full-time Wal-Mart employee’s paycheck might not be able support a family of four. Hundreds of claims charge Wal-Mart with forcing their employees to work off the company time clock without pay. Women who work for Wal-Mart are paid significantly less than men. According to the University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, women earn $5,000 less a year than men while doing the same job.

These alarming statistics only fuel a call for resistance against the proposed Wal-Mart in Northridge. Such a consuming company would do more harm to our local community than good. Thousands of jobs could be lost from neighboring grocery and merchant stores and our economy may dwindle. Who needs low prices at a high cost?

Veronica Rocha can be reached at managing@csun.edu

Wal-Mart, historically known for shattering its local corporate competition, including Mom and Pop stores, is requesting its Northridge Wal-Mart to stay open for 24-hours. If Wal-Mart opens in Northridge, it will allow its customers to park and sleep in their RV’s overnight.