Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wal-Mart’s Unlikely Ally: Construction Unions

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has reached an agreement in principle with New York construction unions to build stores with unionized labor.

The retail giant has been searching for potential sites for a Wal-Mart location in New York City in the face of fierce opposition from retail and grocery unions as well as elected officials. The main sticking points have been Wal-Mart’s wages and refusal to employ unionized workers in its stores.

But one area where Wal-Mart has shown willingness to work with unions is in construction. The retailer’s new five-year agreement with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York means Wal-Mart will use union workers in all of its construction, renovation and demolition work if it decides to open a store in the city. The company began courting the construction unions months ago.

“We share a common goal and that is putting New York City back to work, said Steven Restivo, a spokesman for Wal-Mart. “We have a vested interest in spurring economic development here.” The agreement still needs to be finalized, but the key terms have been agreed upon, he said.

A spokesman with the Building and Construction Trades Council confirmed the deal but declined to comment further.

Wal-Mart has been scouring all five boroughs for potential sites for a store, both big and small, but has yet to pick a location for development. The retailer has been discussing possible sites with Related Cos. and other developers.

So far only the construction unions, which are eager for work, have been sympathetic to Wal-Mart’s Big Apple ambitions; most others have been fighting to keep the company out of the city.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500, for example, has lined up against the retail giant. Pat Purcell, an assistant to the president of UFCW Local 1500, said the union “understands the economic pressures our brothers and sisters in the Building Trades are facing. We support them getting whatever work they can get.”

Purcell added that his union is pleased any Wal-Mart store in the city will be built by unionized workers: “This goes to prove that Wal-Mart is quite capable of paying union wages and benefits,” he said.

If Wal-Mart struck a deal with the construction union in an attempt to create divisions within the city’s labor community, Purcell argued that it would not work. “Wal-Mart is not going to divide the labor movement or others over this issue,” he said.

Wal-Mart’s attempt to enter into New York’s retail market comes as it looks to grow in other cities, some of which have tried to block it. Last summer it won a fight to build more stores in Chicago after a six-year standoff. It cut a similar deal there with local construction unions to use union labor for all stores constructed in northern Illinois for a three-year period.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he supports Wal-Mart’s decision to come to the city. But several members of the City Council, most notably Speaker Christine Quinn, have said that Wal-Mart’s attempted move to into the city is unacceptable.

The City Council will hold a hearing on Wal-Mart’s New York City plans on Thursday. Company officials have said they won’t attend. Wal-Mart has also launched an ad campaign criticizing opposition from local lawmakers.


  1. Unions: united we stand; divided we fall. Trading short term gains for long term stability only serves to prop up the boss, further diminishing our market share. Solidarity, An Injury to One; an Injury to All, basic principles of labor organizing are set aside, supplanted by Competition, Every Man for Himself. The day will arrive when Carpenters shall need the support of fellow workers across craft lines, including those represented by retail and grocery unions. Remember the motto:"We never forget. Organize and Act." Oppose the selling out our honor and credibility to profit serial union buster Wal-Mart. Which side are you on?!

  2. The small savings realized upon the backs of chinese slave labor equals the loss of 2 american jobs in the very near future. Ask yourself as a union worker is that the kind of values you would like to represent. Isn't tranny under anyone a affront to union values? Again did they ask the rank and file members their opinion! I wish you common sense and a strong commitment to your brotherly values.Labor overcomes all obstacles!!!!

  3. It's time to break away from the NYCDCC. This is a clear signal that we have reached a bottom as an organization. I never thought we could sink so low & we all will soon be out of work.


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