January, 2006

Wal-Mart Daily Mishaps…


Retailer critics take war to Web

Lynda Edwards – Arkansas Democrat Gazette
January 29, 2006

When Gregg Wells became violently ill at work, he thought it was a flu bug an ex-Marine like himself could shake.

Wells, 27, works the night shift at a London, Ky., Wal-Mart distribution center, moving groceries in what he calls a “freezer the size of a football field.” Welders were working on freezer racks Dec. 2 when Wells said nausea and migraines struck about a dozen workers.

Wells got home and collapsed on the bathroom floor, where he stayed for two hours. His wife took him to the emergency room when he could stand.

His co-workers told Wal-Mart Stores Inc. managers they were concerned that the welding created toxic fumes. Wells said managers responded with disciplinary action against workers who used sick leave during the two-week welding project.

Most of the workers had never heard of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. But one had visited the Web site of Wake-Up Wal-Mart, an online Washington, group and thorn in Bentonville-based Wal-Mart’s side.

Read the whole article here

Wal-Mart Sued for Overcharging Customers

Wal-Mart is in yet another lawsuit, this time its for overcharging customers As mentioned in a previous post on how Wal-Mart mis-scans products 8% of the time in California, two California residents brought a consumer class action suit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Read the whole article here

Weekend Update

National News

  • Allan Greenspan adds a hurdle to the Wal-Mart bank bid Greenspan spoke out in an eleven page letter urging Congress to close the loophole that would allow Wal-Mart to open a bank in Utah. Greenspan recognizes the seriousness of the issue allowing one of the largest and irresponsible companies to have control of a nations financial system….”Federal regulators need to heed Chairman Greenspan’s warning and realize that a Wal-Mart bank would pose serious and grave threat to consumers, community banks and the economic health of this nation,” Chris Kofinis, communications director for WakeUpWalmart.com This may be one of Greenspans last actions as Chairman, he is scheduled to retire Jan.31 Read the entire article here
  • According to Sanford Bernstein analyst Emme Kozloff, Costco, Walmart and other retail giants are looking into “fingerprint” devices to accelerate transactions and reduce costs….Read more of this article here Fingerprinting Towards the Future
  • In a recent study conducted by the UFCW, found Wal-Mart scanners rang up the wrong price for 604% of the items purchased for the survey in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan and for 8.3% of the items purchased in California….Read more in the New York Times article by Barbara Whitaker

Monday's City Hall Rally Recap

Emotion filled the steps of city hall Monday afternoon as union leaders and members joined City Council Members to speak out against the proposed ‘Bronx Mall’. Local 1500 president Bruce Both spoke on how Big Box stores in the Bronx will destroy local stores as well as the community. NY1 wrote an interesting recap of the rally…

Labor Groups Rally Against Big Box Stores In New Bronx Mall

January 23, 2006

Labor advocates gathered on the steps of City Hall Monday to make sure that the people who live in the area near the Bronx Terminal Market are not shut out of its redevelopment.

The Related Companies is planning to build a shopping center called the Gateway Center on the waterfront property on the Harlem River near the market.

However, members of several labor unions including the New York City Central Labor Council say the Gateway Center Mall should not include big box stores such as BJ’s or Wal-Mart. They say the stores don’t belong there because of their history of poor labor relations.

“We will not allow Related to aid and abet Wal-Mart and BJ’s attempt to avoid the proper scrutiny they deserve from their anti-community and anti-worker practices,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. “We oppose this deception, and we urge the City Council to say no to these bad neighbors.”

Advocates want the developer to relocate the current tenants of the market, and to use union labor during construction.

They are also accusing the big box stores of locking out the poorest of consumers by not accepting food stamps or WIC.

The Related Companies say protesters are getting in the way of progress, saying in a statement: “By creating more than 5,000 construction and permanent jobs in a community with high unemployment, it’s clear that the creation of the Gateway Center is a vital component of the revitalization of the Bronx.”

Health Care Security Act going state wide??

Bill in Works To Force Wal-Mart To Give Employees Health Benefits

BY JILL GARDINER – Staff Reporter of the Sun
January 23, 2006
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/26269

New York State is about to become involved in the effort to force Wal-Mart and other big box stores to contribute to their employees’ health care tab.

Less than two weeks after Maryland made history by passing a law with the same mission – and on the heels of a similar bill approved by the New York City Council – Democrats in the state Senate plan to introduce a version of such legislation. Democrats passed the Maryland and council measures over Republican vetoes.

The latest proposal is part of an employer-paid health care effort that is just beginning to heat up. Labor leaders have aggressively lobbied elected officials across the country to take on the cause and many are expecting more states to sign on with their own versions.

The New York State proposal would require Wal-Mart and other stores with 500 or more employees and at least 10,000 square feet of space to pay $3 an hour for each employee. With Republicans in control of the state Senate, however, passing the measure could be an uphill battle.

During a news conference at City Hall yesterday, state Senator Diane Savino, a former union leader who will be the main sponsor of the bill, said it is unfair for Wal-Mart to exploit taxpayer dollars by denying many of its employees health insurance and driving them to Medicaid.

“No employee of a multibillion dollar company should be forced to go without medical care nor should they be forced to resort to Medicaid,” she said. “Providing health benefits is not going to make a dent in Wal-Mart’s fortunes.”

Opponents have a different take. They paint the legislation as anti-business and the product of special interest groups like unions.

The director of legislative affairs at the Employment Policies Institute, Michael Flynn, called the legislation a “shot gun approach” that would fail to significantly increase the number of people with medical coverage and would saddle businesses with financial burdens, making it more difficult for them to operate and provide low cost products.

“When you mandate coverage, you’re driving up labor costs, which leads to reduced wages, reduced hours, or loss of jobs,” Mr. Flynn said during a telephone interview late last week.

The Washington, D.C.-based institute is releasing a series of studies that show that requiring employers to pay for health insurance is an ineffective approach to closing the insurance gap. Wal-Mart officials could not be reached yesterday, but in the past have denied that they encourage employees to sign up for Medicaid and said that they do provide many of their employees with insurance.

When Mayor Bloomberg vetoed the City Council’s legislation late last year, he said he wanted to increase the number of people with health insurance but that mandating it in this fashion violates federal law and is the wrong approach.

Yesterday, state Senator Eric Schneiderman said the Senate bill was designed to withstand legal challenges regarding the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which Mr. Bloomberg was referring to.

“We are confident that beginning today this movement will grow,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

The elected officials and labor leaders at yesterday’s event took a few cues from Maryland politicians, who depicted the issue as an abuse of taxpayer money. The president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, Stuart Applebaum, a top leader at the United Food and Commercial Workers, Patrick Purcell, and the executive director of the Working Families Party, Dan Cantor, said Wal-Mart needs to change its ways.

With both sides gearing up their campaigns to tackle the issue, New York State could be the next stage for a national debate

Bronx Terminal Mall Update

Wholesale Market Merchants Sue to Keep New Neighbor Out

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Published: January 23, 2006

Merchants at a South Bronx wholesale market that is a major supplier of the New York region’s fruits and vegetables have sued the city, trying to stop a produce company’s planned move to a city-owned site across the street.

Baldor Specialty Foods, one of the Northeast’s largest importers and distributors of produce, intends to move this summer to a 12.8-acre Hunts Point site that includes a 185,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse and distribution building.

The site, at 155 Food Center Drive, is outside the exit gate of the produce market, known as the Hunts Point Terminal Market. The market receives produce daily from around the world and is part of the city’s wholesale food distribution center in Hunts Point, where city officials say more than 130 wholesalers generate annual revenues of more than $3 billion.

In court documents filed last week in the State Supreme Court in the Bronx, lawyers for the produce market’s merchant cooperative say that the city’s Economic Development Corporation illegally awarded Baldor, a nonunion company, a lease for the site and that it threatens the cooperative’s roughly 50 family-owned businesses.

“Having another major produce business in the cooperative’s very backyard would prove crippling to the cooperative’s members’ businesses, and, given the cooperative’s long-term investment in the terminal market and its facility, this blow will be particularly devastating,” said the lawyers, Randy M. Mastro and Cynthia S. Arato.

A lawyer for Baldor, which was also named in the suit, said in a statement that the case was without merit. “Hunts Point Terminal Market is asking the court to halt the expansion of a business that now employs more than 500 people and will hire more than 300 additional workers to its payroll as a result of the move to new headquarters,” said the lawyer, Kevin McGrath.

A spokesman for the Economic Development Corporation and a spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department said yesterday they could not comment on pending litigation. A spokesman for the merchants’ cooperative also declined to comment. A judge has scheduled a hearing today on the case.

A lawyer for the merchants, Mr. Mastro, also represented Laro Service Systems, the company whose lawsuit against the city delayed for months the Fulton Fish Market’s relocation from Manhattan to its new home in Hunts Point.

Members and supporters of Teamsters Local 202, the union that represents drivers and warehouse workers at the produce market, demonstrated on Friday outside Baldor’s South Bronx headquarters. They said that the company paid substandard wages and that it fired two workers who had attempted to organize a union.

In a statement, Baldor denied the allegations and said that it offered better wages and benefits than the union.

The two sides held rival rallies. A group of Baldor workers stood on the loading docks wearing antiunion T-shirts, a hand-painted banner fastened to the top of the red-brick building declaring, “Proud to be union-free.”

Meanwhile, passing trucks honked in support of union members, who wore signs hanging from their necks with messages like “Baldor drivers deserve respect!!”

"Slam the Door" Rally on BJ's and Wal-Mart Announced

The UFCW, along with Small Business Groups, Members of the Clergy and other Community Organizations concerned with responsible development in New York City are gathering Monday January 23rd at Noon on the steps of New York City Hall. The rally is being held to bring attention to the upcoming vote for the approval of the new Bronx Gateway Mall. The mall is not identifying the potential tenants [Wal-Mart, BJ’s Wholesale Club] which is allowing them to escape scrutinity of their labor and business practices, and providing BJ’s and Wal-Mart with a ‘backdoor’ into the Bronx.

Wal-Mart, sneaking into NYC

Wal-Mart Woos Entrepreneurs And Minorities

BY DANIELA GERSON – Staff Reporter of the SunJanuary 16, 2006

Wal-Mart, while keeping quiet on when and where it plans to open its first store in New York City, is actively courting local minority business owners, networking with immigrant nonprofit organizations, and hosting supplier workshops.
Many small-business owners have responded enthusiastically to the overtures, a striking contrast to a frequently heard criticism that if the retail giant enters New York it would be detrimental to commerce in the city.
“I’ve been fighting for the small businesses more than almost anyone else out there – I am very sensitive to them. But I also have an allegiance to the members who pay their dues every year,” the president of the New York Statewide Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, Frank Garcia, said. “To those minority businesses, this could really save their business. This could create a lot of jobs in the South Bronx.”
Wal-Mart’s potential contribution to minority suppliers was the message of a seminar co-hosted last month by the company and the Asian American Federation of New York, a local nonprofit. Advertising in trade publications under the headline “Want to Sell to Wal-Mart?” the company promised “one-on-one meetings with Wal-Mart representatives.”
The outpouring of interest overwhelmed organizers. “We got bombarded with calls from people wanting to speak with them,” the group’s donor relations director, Michelle Tung, said. The immigrant advocacy organization is trying to steer clear of the hot-button issue of whether Wal-Mart should enter New York. Instead, she said, it arranged the meeting to help small-business members.

At the meeting, she said, more than 100 people listened raptly as Wal-Mart managers and officers explained what types of products and certification the company looks for. Wal-Mart’s labor practices and effects on competitors, which some criticize, were never questioned. “It was purely business. It was an overwhelming response, and of everyone who attended not one voiced concern,” she said.
The Asian American Federation event was the first “minority supplier workshop” hosted in New York, part of a larger program the company launched about a year ago to reach out to minority businesses, Wal-Mart’s director of corporate affairs for the east region, Mia Masten, said. “We were very encouraged by the enthusiastic response to last month’s event and will have a larger venue, more staff, and more publicity for the next event,” she said via e-mail. Generally, she said, the company is looking to “expand our relationship” with all minority groups, including women and the physically challenged.
While Ms. Masten said the company is looking “very seriously” at New York, focusing on the outer boroughs, she said the outreach to suppliers is not related to the bid. Last year, Wal-Mart spent $11 billion on suppliers from New York City, according to Ms. Masten. She said Wal-Mart currently buys from 36 minority suppliers in the city, and 125 statewide.
Opponents of Wal-Mart at the City Council, which last year successfully overrode a veto by Mayor Bloomberg to pass a health care bill critics said specifically targeted the company, are not impressed by what the company says it can offer minority suppliers.
“Wal-Mart has been trying to conduct seminars for small businesses and some minority-owned businesses, but this is a thinly veiled attempt to lay claim to helping minority and immigrant businesses when the net result will be exactly the opposite,” Council Member John Liu, a Democrat of Queens, said. “The impact of Wal-Mart would be to not only degrade worker conditions in New York City, but would also drive a dagger into the economic engine of New York City, which is small business.”

The president of the Small Business Congress, a federation of 70 trade organizations in New York, Sung Soo Kim, has campaigned vigorously on how Wal-Mart could destroy his members. Wal-Mart, he said, in addition to potentially ruining the unique commercial environment in New York, “created a playing field which we cannot play inside.” With about 15,000 city stores closing their doors in 2004 and an estimated 10,000 entering bankruptcy in 2005, he said, “We declared small business in crises.” Of his members, he said, not one is in favor of Wal-Mart’s coming to New York.
However, the New York Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is a member organization. Its president, Mr. Garcia, said his perspective on Wal-Mart changed when he traveled with a delegation of national representatives of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce to the company’s headquarters in Arkansas to ask for foundation support. “I was one of the biggest anti-Wal-Mart people until I went to Wal-Mart and saw what they were really all about,” he said.
There, he said, the delegation sat down and voiced their concerns to the new president and CEO of Wal-Mart, Eduardo Castro-Wright. He said the company seemed receptive.
At this point, Mr. Garcia said, “We’re not in favor or against Wal-Mart coming. We want our members to be able to get contracts.”
When Mr. Garcia went to Arkansas, he said he brought with him a letter from the president of Sylvia’s Food Products, Van Woods. For years, Mr. Woods said, he tried to find a way for his 70 products, created in 1994 from recipes for dishes sold at his mother’s restaurant in Harlem, to be sold at Wal-Mart.
“As a businessman I want my products in Wal-Mart,” Mr. Woods said, estimating his $4 million in sales last year would be taken up by a “few more million” if he could sell to the world’s biggest retailer. “I am a small-business man and I’m not threatened by Wal-Mart. The guy who has the paint store, the hardware store might be, but I don’t feel the threat.”

Deadline Looms for Council’s Ruling on Related’s Bronx Mall

BY JILL GARDINER – Staff Reporter of the SunJanuary 12, 2006

The fate of a massive development project in the Bronx proposed by the Related Companies, the real estate giant that built the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, is hanging in the balance.
The project, which includes a mega-mall with 1 million square feet of retail space, has already received approval from the City Planning Commission and the local community board. But the project has one more hurdle to clear in the City Council, which must vote by February 8.
“People are just starting to realize that the ULURP clock is running out and we have to take action,” Council Member Joel Rivera said, referring to the land-use application process. “Time is not on our side.”
Mr. Rivera, the council’s majority leader, said negotiations with Related are underway to hash out community concerns, but he said most Bronx council members are likely to back the overall plan. Mr. Rivera is supporting the project, which will replace the dilapidated Bronx Terminal Market, where two dozen merchants and hundreds of employees still sell produce and other goods.
The Gateway Mall, as the project is called, could be the first major litmus test for the newly constituted council. The council just elected a new speaker, Christine Quinn, and its vote will send a signal on where it stands on development and organized labor.
While the Bloomberg administration and the developer are expressing optimism about the plan’s prospects for approval, opponents are slamming the proposal and pressuring council members to reject it. They have criticized it as a “sweetheart deal,” citing connections between the administration and Related and the fact the site was not put out for public bidding.
A lobbyist who represents merchants that would be displaced by the project, Richard Lipsky, disputed the notion the plan has strong council support and said the Bronx delegation is still “very much in play.”
“There is a lot of opposition to the deal and to the prospect of the project being a Trojan horse,” Mr. Lipsky said.
Mr. Lipsky, who also represents unions and small
supermarkets, called on the council to block the project unless Related agrees to bar BJ’s Wholesale Club and Wal-Mart from the mall. He also said the council does not have enough time to properly review the project.
Related has already said it has no plans to bring in Wal-Mart. The council has in the past rejected projects in the final phase of land-use review process because of opposition to stores like BJs and Wal-Mart.
Ms. Quinn has not made public her position on the Gateway Mall. A spokeswoman for her, Maria Alvarado, said via e-mail that the “speaker’s position on the matter will be determined after hearing from all the interested parties during this process.”
Both the city and Related have argued that the development will be a desperately needed shot in the arm to spur economic activity and create jobs in a now blighted section of the borough. They have also pointed out the project has “overwhelming support” from leaders in the borough, including the president of the Bronx, Aldofo Carrion.
David Stearns, a spokesman for the marketing firm representing Related, the Marino Group, said the council generally yields to elected officials that represent the area and noted that land use approvals have nothing to do with the stores that occupy a site.
Last week Council Member Helen Foster told The New York Sun that unless there is a greater effort to find a new space for the existing merchants, who were ordered out by a state Supreme Court judge, there will be “bumps and bruises” in the final land use review.
Complicating matters is that the council does not yet have committees in place following the recent election, so its window for taking up the matter is narrowing. Ms. Quinn and the council’s Rules Committee scheduled to approve committee assignments next week, giving the Land Use Committee three weeks to act.
Related paid already $42 million for the lease, but the city agreed to reimburse the company if the project falls through and has said it would provide millions of dollars in tax breaks. If the council rejects the application, Mayor Bloomberg can veto its action. But most council votes are veto-proof.

Local Wal-Mart Update

New York Times
February 10, 2005

Foes Dig In As Wal-Mart Aims for City

”Wal-Mart is eager to make New York City its next frontier,” said the company’s eastern region spokeswoman, but many New Yorkers seem ready to welcome Wal-Mart as enthusiastically as a frontier town welcomes a desperado.

Small businesses, union leaders, City Council members and even some mayoral candidates are gearing up to prevent Wal-Mart from setting foot in town, now that the world’s largest retailer has acknowledged it wants to open its first New York City store, planned for Rego Park, Queens, in 2008.

Vornado Realty Trust, the developer whose proposed shopping complex would include a 132,000-square-foot Wal-Mart, has filed a land-use application with the city, and the approval process is expected to take seven months. But Wal-Mart’s opponents plan to pressure every government body that will consider the application — the community board, the City Planning Commission and the City Council — to reject it.

The fight seems likely to become the biggest battle against a single store in the city’s history, because the labor movement sees Wal-Mart as Public Enemy No. 1 since it is so anti-union, and because many small businesses fear that tens of thousands of Wal-Mart- loving consumers will flock to the store, taking millions of dollars in business with them.

”There will never be a more diverse and comprehensive coalition than this effort against Wal-Mart,” said Richard Lipsky, spokesman for the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, an anti-Wal-Mart coalition in New York. ”It will include small-business people, labor people, environmental groups, women’s groups, immigrant groups and community groups.”

One factor that will make the fight unusually intense is that labor has decided that frustrating Wal-Mart’s New York ambitions is pivotal to its new, nationwide campaign to pressure the company to improve the way it pays and treats its workers.

”Wal-Mart has come to represent the lowest common denominator in the treatment of working people,” said Brian M. McLaughlin, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, the umbrella group of more than one million union members. ”Wal-Mart didn’t build its empire on bargains. They built it on the backs of working people here and abroad.”

Wal-Mart — which says it is looking at more sites in New York — has faced opposition elsewhere, most notably in Chicago and Inglewood, a Los Angeles suburb. Last May, the Chicago City Council voted to allow a Wal-Mart on the city’s West Side, but blocked one proposed for the South Side, while in Inglewood voters rejected a Wal-Mart, 60 percent to 40 percent, in a referendum last April.

Nonetheless, company officials seem surprised by the hostility they have encountered here, especially because the city has more than a dozen big-box discount stores.

”I hope we’ll be given a fair chance,” said the Wal- Mart spokeswoman, Mia Masten, corporate affairs director for the eastern region. ”We are interested in New York City. With the population there, it would be a wonderful opportunity for us in terms of reaching a customer base we haven’t reached yet.”

In all this early skirmishing, one not inconsequential group seems largely forgotten: New York’s consumers. Many of them love Wal-Mart’s low prices.

”I like Wal-Mart,” said Sheila Richardson, a correction officer who lives in Corona, Queens, and was shopping last week at the Sears mall across 62nd Drive from the planned Wal-Mart site, which would be a block from the intersection of Queens Boulevard and the Long Island Expressway.

”I’m a shopaholic,” she said, ”and once a week I drive to Wal-Mart in Hempstead or Westbury and even where I grew up, in Albany. It would be good to have a Wal-Mart nearby.”

Danielle Sweetman, a receptionist for Catholic Charities, agreed, saying a Wal-Mart in Queens would spare her the 40-minute drive to the Wal-Mart in Hempstead. ”I’m looking forward to Wal-Mart coming,” she said. ”It has better bargains, and I can get almost anything there.”

Steven Malanga, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, a conservative research organization, said Wal-Mart’s opponents unfairly want to deprive consumers of greater choices. ”The nature of the debate is whether New York gets to have the broadest shopping opportunities that exist elsewhere,” he said. ”Mark Green always did studies showing that stores in New York were ripping off the poor, and then the City Council tries stopping big-box stores. So why do people get ripped off? Because we’re restricting competition.” Mr. Green was the city’s public advocate.

The store is already becoming an issue in this year’s mayoral campaign. Two Democratic candidates, Anthony D. Weiner, the congressman who represents Rego Park, and Gifford Miller, the Council’s speaker, have voiced opposition to the Wal-Mart store. Mr. Weiner said recently that ”Wal-Mart has blazed a path of economic and social destruction in towns throughout the U.S.”

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a Republican, appeared to support the Wal-Mart project in his initial comments on the plan, but now mayoral aides say it is by no means a given that he will support it.

”You can’t sit there and just say these big stores should not be allowed to be built in this city,” he told reporters recently, voicing concern that the city was losing shoppers, jobs and sales tax revenues to big stores in the suburbs.

Wal-Mart executives say they have not signed an official deal with Vornado, and some city officials say that if the heat grows too intense, Wal-Mart may walk away from the project or Vornado may ask it to drop out, hoping to find another tenant that provokes less opposition. Vornado declined to comment.

Officials in the city’s planning department are doing an initial review of Vornado’s application to see whether all the necessary papers, including a preliminary environmental impact filing, have been submitted. Vornado’s application calls for a three- story shopping complex, two 25-story apartment towers and 1,400 parking spaces. The Wal-Mart store, occupying the first floor, would not include a supermarket.

Various approvals, including changes to a previous land-use plan for the site, are needed, planning officials explained, because of the height, the residential use and the expiration of approvals from 1986 for a mall at the site.

Once all the papers are filed, Rego Park’s community board is to hold a hearing and submit a recommendation to the planning commission. The Queens borough president can also hold a hearing and make recommendations. After the borough president weighs in, the City Planning Commission must hold a hearing and has 60 days to approve, modify or reject the application. If the commission approves it, the Vornado application goes to the City Council’s zoning and franchise subcommittee, then to its land-use committee and then to the whole Council.

The community board and the planning commission are supposed to consider 20 land-use issues, including effects on traffic, air quality and neighboring shopping districts. They are not supposed to consider whether Wal-Mart is antiunion, but the Council’s politicians are expected to be mindful of such arguments.

For the community board and city planners, one fear is that Wal-Mart’s presence could badly undercut one of the borough’s best-known shopping districts, Austin Street in Forest Hills, one mile away.

Lenny Karp, whose family has run Austin Shoes since 1942, voiced fears that Wal-Mart’s low prices, high volume and huge name would drive many storeowners under. ”I’m a small retailer. How can I compete with them?” he said. ”They can devastate a community. We’ve seen that happen elsewhere. The small-business owner is no match for them.”

A customer interrupted to say Mr. Karp’s customers would remain loyal, but Mr. Karp said new
comers to the neighborhood might never even visit his store because they might go right to Wal-Mart. ”Right now, I work seven days a week now to support my family,” he said. ”I just don’t think it’s fair if they come.”

Sung Soo Kim, president of the city’s Small Business Congress, with 130,000 members, said: ”There’s a myth that local businesses can be competitive with megastores. Those megastores are category-killing. They cannibalize existing retail merchants.”

Perhaps the strongest opposition to Wal-Mart will come from organized labor, which has told City Council members that Wal-Mart pays low wages, provides health insurance to fewer than half its workers, is vehemently antiunion and faces a huge sex-discrimination lawsuit.

Wal-Mart’s Ms. Masten said the new store would create over 300 jobs. She said Wal-Mart stores in cities paid $10.38 an hour on average; union officials put the figure around $9.25. She said Wal-Mart offers profit- sharing, a 401(k) plan and affordable health benefits, starting at $40 a month for individual coverage and $155 a month for family coverage.

Noting that Wal-Mart employs 1.2 million Americans, she said, ”People wouldn’t stay with a company that wasn’t providing opportunities and competitive wages and benefits.”

Helen Sears, the council member who represents Rego Park, said she had cautioned Wal-Mart officials about their labor practices.

”I’ve said to them, they are the biggest daddy of all, and if they want to do big things, if they want to do work in our Big Apple, their policies absolutely need to be reviewed,” she said. ”They have to put something in place that’s a little different from what they have now.”