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Protesters Say No to Walmart in Newark

Company believed to be considering a location in Brick City

More than 100 people rallied on the steps of city hall Monday to protest the purported construction of a Walmart along Springfield Avenue, echoing charges heard elsewhere that the retail giant does not provide a decent living for its employees and has a ruinous effect on local economies.

Company spokespeople, however, while saying there are no “announced plans” to build its first store in Newark, also added that the world’s largest retailer would be a good fit for the city and that its wages are in line with or exceed those at other major store chains.

The rally was held shortly before a meeting of the city planning board, whose agenda included a hearing on a development proposal for a vacant lot at Springfield Avenue and Jones Street submited by Tucker Development Corp., which has offices in Chicago and New Jersey. That application calls for a shopping center with tens of thousands of square feet of retail space.

Tucker, however, asked the planning board to delay the hearing by one week, to Dec. 10. The planning board granted the request as protesters who had wandered into city hall to hear the proceedings looked on.

Opponents said Tucker’s involvement clearly indicates that Walmart is eyeing the site. Tucker has developed properties for other store locations. Alex Gomez, of Working Families United for New Jersey, which organized Monday’s rally, said the artist’s rendering of the proposal -- known officially as Springfield Avenue Marketplace -- even resembles a Walmart, with its signature “big box” design.

Speaking before the crowd assembled on city hall steps, Charles Hall, chair of the organization, accused Walmart of trying to get approval for a Newark store by operating “under the radar.”

“We got together with a coalition of people to say we don’t want Walmart here. I will tell you Walmart is no friend to communities....we want to speak out to our community when they try to pull the wool over our eyes,” Hall said to an audience that included members of organized labor, the NAACP and other activist groups.

But a company spokesman, William Wertz, denied any knowledge of plans for the site.

“I know we’re in contact with city officials for things like Sandy relief, but I’m not aware of any discussion pertaining to this project,” he said.

Speakers Monday accused the retailer of an array of sins. Hall cited studies showing the company kills three jobs for every two jobs it creates. Other speakers said that Walmart pays many workers a wage of just $8 an hour, or about $15,000 a year, less than half the median income for a family of four in Newark. Msgr. John Gilchrist, a Catholic priest and labor activist, said the company destroys mom-and-pop businesses and would turn the city’s downtown into a ghost town.

“What’s happening tonight is very important. It’s not just about organizing Walmart, it’s about protecting the little people,” he said.

In a prepared statement and in response to questions, Wertz, the Walmart spokesman, countered those claims, stating the average hourly full-time wage for a Walmart employee in New Jersey is $12.78  and that many new employees choose to make a career at the company, with 75 percent of store management starting out as hourly associates.

Wertz also said one study cited by Hall, showing that Walmart proved to be a job-killer in Chicago, was “flawed.”

Walmart, which has locations in nearby Union and Kearny, is also already popular with Newark shoppers, according to company data. Newarkers spent $45 million at Walmart stores last year.

bill t. balkum December 04, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Having a Walmart within walking distance of the central ward would open many opportunities for jobs, shopping. The wage details could be worked out, besides the tax benefits for the city. What other big retailers are willing to be located in that spot?
frank feldman December 04, 2012 at 06:58 PM
So a bunch of union bullies from out of the area come in to protest another Walmart. Yeah, God forbid you give a willing person a non-union job. Walmart is a great part-time place to work for retirees or teens& they pay equivalant wages for these kinds of jobs in other stores. You might think Walmart underpays, but Unions overpay.
Dave Phillips December 05, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I'll bet the protestors were not from Newark or the neighborhood. If the people who live in the neighborhood of the proposed site & the city as a whole are against it, it would be diferent.
john December 05, 2012 at 09:29 PM
I guess you accept that your wages refelect what your worth....walmart would love to give you a job...
Alice January 12, 2013 at 02:35 PM
We need a Shoprite in the Central Ward to compete with the Pathmark that's on Bergen Street. Pathmark does not respect it's customers. Has anyone ever shopped during the 1st of the month? It's sad. The food is overpriced and the food looks like...... I travel to another town to buy my goceries, but it would be nice to shop closer to home.
kathy January 12, 2013 at 04:47 PM
I live in Newark NJ and having a Walmart here would be very convenient to me. Only outsiders call this place "Brick City". REAL Newarkers call it The Bricks. I hope those fucksticks don't get their way. I agree Walmart pays little but EVERYONE in Newark lives 30 minutes from Manhattan and there is no law preventing us from going to NY for better pay. People in the Bronx, Brooklyn, hell even people on Staten Island commute to Manhattan for work. I find the argument spurious and the players in that article sub-moronic
kathy January 12, 2013 at 04:49 PM
Dave Phillips I have owned a house here in Newark for the last 9 years and this is the first I am hearing of any protest. I think protesting a convenient shopping resource is idiotic. See my comments above.
Chris Gill February 01, 2013 at 05:52 PM
at full time that would leave the average rank and file worker ( they got 13 an hour by using managers, gms) with 1360 before taxes 1100 after ... rent is 500 a month for a crappy studio and a bus pass is 40 bucks ... cell phone 60 once you do electric and food your at like around 300 dollars a month or 75 bucks a week as a margin of error, to pay health insurance, and save for a better future ... if rent goes up within a years time your screwed ... it will put the mom and pop shops out of business and the secret is the booker doesnt want the central ward residents to have to go downtown to shop and he wants the discount stores downtown to fold so he can lease to better retailers and developers
Chris Gill February 01, 2013 at 06:02 PM
i live in the north ward ... its not a good look for the city ... its not like were far from walmart (which shows you dont live here ) the one in kearny is right there across the bridge and where they are building the walmart now isnt any easier to get to anyways ... newark is a head downtown and head back transit city... when i went to school i dormed in the heights and 1st off pathmark is really far ( other side of bergen is the west ward ) number 2 they are the only game in town ( the only major grocer in town in pathmark) they know people are getting gov't aid so they charge an arm and leg and hire only one cashier ... if you dont get govt aid then o well pay it or go to east orange ( 5 miles away) i would support it if it was just a wal mart grocery but a superstore in the middle of the city??? its not even near a single highway thats just crowding streets ( city decided not to build subway on springfield ave when money was given)
Chris Gill February 01, 2013 at 06:04 PM
@kathy so you missed out on most of the things going on in newark anyway if your only 9 years in ... your just catching up
kathy February 03, 2013 at 08:21 PM
Chris your reasoning makes me think you must be on drugs and you seem genuinely mean spirited and very angry. I am honored NOT to know you.

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