Impoverished Los Angeles residents of Chinatown were saddened when they learned on January 17 that the Walmart they pleaded for years to get, shut down at 7 pm that evening due to the $15 minimum wage and continuing union harassment.
Asian and Hispanic residents of downtown Los Angeles campaigned for years to get a big box retailer to locate in their economically depressed neighborhood to compete against liquor stores that sold a limited number of food items at very high prices. Walmart in September 2013 opened a 33,000-square-foot grocery and drug store in central Chinatown.
Poor residents flocked to the store for lower food costs, substantially cheaper pharmaceuticals, and ethnic offerings. But labor leaders immediately started protesting against the store for refusing to unionize, despite the 100 Walmart employees refusing to sign union organizing cards.
Thousands of protesters were bused in to protest against Walmart destroying downtown, during the November 2014 Black Friday protests in downtown Los Angeles led by the union-funded Movement Generation's Justice and Ecology Project, even though the company only had the one store in Chinatown.
Movement organizer Brooke Anderson thundered, “As people deeply committed to environmental and climate justice, we condemn Walmart as a climate criminal and we stand side-by-side with Walmart’s workers organizing for $15 per hour, full time work, and the respect they deserve.”
During last summer’s union-led 'Fight For 15' minimum wage movement in Los Angeles, Walmart was portrayed on giant banners proclaiming, “Walmart Wages War on Workers” and “Walmart Wages War on Planet Earth.”
But after succeeding with passing a minimum wage that was set to start on January 1 at $10 an hour and jump in steps to $15 in 2018, unions and liberals have begun to panic that spiking wages might actually cause the 15 percent rate of unemployment among those with a high school diploma or less to rise.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office most recent in-depth analysis on minimum wage hikes estimated that President Obama’s proposed federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 an hour would raise wages for 16 to 24 million people, but it would kill 500,000 existing jobs.
Liberals piously called this negative impact a “reasonable trade-off worth embracing,” whereas conservatives and business owners called it proof that risky government interference would destroy jobs and put more people on welfare. But there are no independent studies of what a 50 percent, let alone 100 percent increase would do.
Furthermore, Walmart’s closing in Los Angeles means that shoppers will still be able to go to neighboring cities to shop at Walmart, taking sales tax payments away from LA.
Breitbart News reported in late July that local union bosses want their locals exempted from the law since businesses were already making plans to cut employee head count.
The same month, McDonalds opened their first robotic restaurant in Phoenix and Hotels in LA announced they were planning to reduce guests’ daily room cleaning or charging extra for doing so.
Private sector union membership has plummeted from almost 40 percent of the workforce in the 1960s to a new low of 6.6 percent in 2015. The ‘Fight for 15’ sounded like a great strategy to leverage liberals’ concern for the plight of the poor into an organizing strategy.
But the downtown LA Walmart’s closing is just the first of what will be a huge negative blow-back for workers and poor consumers.