Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Public benefit or public liability?

Wal-Mart claims that it will create 350 jobs in Vernon, of which 70% will be full-time. It also claims that there are 683 unemployed people in Vernon, and that 150 construction jobs will be created.

Even if Wal-Mart employed 350 people in a new store in Vernon, it would be unlikely that there would be a net gain of 350 jobs in the Vernon / Manchester area. In the process of leaving its big boxes for bigger boxes (i.e., "Supercenters"), Wal-Mart has left 245 empty or partially empty Wal-Mart buildings across the country. ["Tighter Control of Big Stores' Size Sought; Alexandria Has Similar Provision," Eric M. Weiss, The Washington Post, January 22, 2004]. Will one of its Manchester stores (Wal-Mart or Sam's Club) be vacated? If so, the net employment gain goes down. Will the Vernon KMart survive a Wal-Mart Supercenter? If not, the net employment gain goes down again.

Wal-Mart's definition of a full-time work week is 28 hours or more, so its claim of 70% full-time employment is not too impressive.

The claim regarding 683 unemployed people in Vernon, even if true, is irrelevant. Will Wal-Mart hire only Vernon residents? How many of the unemployed people in Vernon want to work at Wal-Mart? If the Manchester Wal-Mart or Sam's Club closes, won't those employees be offered positions at the Vernon Wal-Mart?

Regarding the claim of 150 construction jobs, W/S Development Associates LLC is based in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. How many of the construction jobs will be given to Connecticut residents?

Wal-Mart often falls short on respect for workers. An internal audit revealed thousands of labor violations, including 1,371 child-labor law violations. Until recently, Wal-Mart locked in employees in its stores at night. without a manager on site. The company has been sued for forcing employees to work "off the clock," discrimination against Hispanics and women. ["Getting What You Pay For", Editorials, Hartford Courant, April 6, 2004].

The National Organization of Women has declared Wal-Mart a "Merchant of Shame", citing "sex discrimination in pay, promotion, and compensation, wage abuse, exclusion of contraceptive coverage in insurance plans, violations of child labor laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

Without citing any supporting facts, Wal-Mart claims that "Total taxes paid would be nearly half a million dollars a year." The definition of "total taxes" is unclear. Does it represent state sales tax, payroll tax and property tax? How much property tax revenue would Vernon collect? What is the basis for this claim? What is the expected appraised value of the building, land and furnishings? What mill rate is assumed? Will Wal-Mart make an assessment appeal as it did in Manchester?

Wal-Mart claims that it will "donate thousands of dollars to community based local charity." The problem with Wal-Mart's "charitable" donations, which are really just cheap advertisements, is that it donates at a very low rate. The 2003 United Negro College fund annual report shows that the Wal-Mart Foundation donated $52,000, less than 64 other companies. Microsoft donated $12,500,000 and Pfizer donated $1,772,752. Wal-Mart is the world’s largest corporation, with sales of $256 billion in 2003. Its contribution to the United Negro College fund amounts to 22 cents for every $1 million in sales. That is pitiful.

Don't be surprised if Wal-Mart asks for local subsidies, further reducing the public benefit. Wal-Mart has received over $1 billion in subsides from states, as reported in a May 24, 2004 article published in Alternet.

Wal-Mart is about its shareholders, who hold over $200 billion in stock. Wal-Mart is not about Vernon.