Apparently a new Wal-Mart Supercenter has opened on the West side of Indianapolis. According to the crappy local news I was watching this morning, Wal-Mart is “revitalizing” the Lafayette Square area by providing 426 new jobs (not “more than 450” as Greg Ballard, the new mayor, claims, which seems at least a significant difference to me), for which over seven thousand people applied. Their move into one of Indy’s crummier areas shows their “initiative to deepen their involvement in local communities.”
Someone got 700 signatures on a petition in support of the chain moving in, information used in every pro-Wally World article I read online to show residents’ apparent undying love for Wal-Mart. This sounds to me like not very many signatures. If that many people applied for jobs, why didn’t they sign a petition, as well?
The store gave away dog food, people food, and shampoo; freebies that brought hundreds out to rush the door and scramble over one another when the store opened this morning like it was a day after Thanksgiving sale or they were Oprah giving away free cars – not an opportunity to purchase cases of Mountain Dew and Cheetos by the ton, with which people were filling their carts during the broadcast this morning.
“Just by being who they are, Wal-Mart is literally as good an anti-poverty program as we have in this country,” said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. One of those most disturbing statements I think I’ve heard in a while. “They leave thousands of dollars in the pockets of people who need them most. Other businesses could learn from Wal-Mart’s successful business model by being value driven and taking out costs.”
They also claim they pay their employees an “average of $10.80 per hour” in Indiana. Of course, we all know this is an average of everyone who works full-time (including managers and higher-ups), and all the poor saps who actually make seven dollars an hour, and this is how we get that number.
Although the Lafayette Square area has been in danger of turning in to a war zone for a decade or more, no one can claim that residents have no other opportunities for work, groceries, or shopping. The bus system runs straight through 38th Street and surrounding neighborhoods, there is a Meijer, a Target, a Marsh, and a Kroger. But no one can claim it isn’t economically depressed, either. One person said that loss prevention will be Wal-Mart’s number one concern once they open.
Some people argue that what should have been done – rather than dumping $20 million in to building yet another Wal-Mart – would be to put some money into revitalizing the mall that’s been hemorrhaging money and businesses for quite some time. The area has recently been referred to as the “Pike Plaza Auto Mall” because there are so many car dealerships there. But there are also tons of restaurants (a great vegetarian Indian restaurant and a shop to buy Indian food, supplies, and clothes), the Georgetown Market, retail shops, record stores, gas stations, and other opportunities for people to work and still receive fair wages and health insurance.
I just find it difficult to understand how putting in a Wal-Mart is going to make all these other places, which haven’t wanted to be in the area, stay or come back.