After nearly 100 Walmart workers across the country went on an unprecedented strike this week, the retailer announced that it is opening a hiring center Thursday near one of its most hotly contested locations.
The store, currently under construction, is in downtown Los Angeles' historic Chinatown neighborhood. Although one-fifth the size of the company's big-box stores, the Chinatown Walmart would be the first one centrally located in the city of Los Angeles.
The retail giant is hiring 65 employees for its Chinatown store and is encouraging potential employees to go to the center, which is a few blocks away from the store, or apply online, according to a press release from Walmart. "Our expectation is that a majority of the jobs at this store will be full-time," Steven Restivo, a Walmart spokesman, told The Huffington Post.
However, opponents say Walmart doesn't give the wages, hours or benefits it advertises. In June, thousands of Angelenos marched through Chinatown in what was touted as the largest anti-Walmart protest in history. The protesters expressed concern about Walmart's low wages and lack of benefits. They also said they wanted to protect the cultural heritage of LA's Chinatown and the mom-and-pop stores that could be forced to close after competing with Walmart.
Although the LA City Council unanimously approved in March an emergency ban on chain retail stores in the Chinatown area, Walmart surprised the Council by obtaining building permits the night before the vote. The Pacific American Labor Alliance (PALA), the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) and some Chinatown business owners and residents are currently appealing the city's eleventh-hour issuance of the permits.
In fact, because of the appeal, some say the hiring center should not be opening yet. "They still haven't obtained their 'Certificate of Occupancy' to open and cannot do so until all the building permits are exhausted or granted, rending the hiring center premature," said LAANE spokeswoman Allison Mannos.
Walmart maintains that its Chinatown store, which has been under construction since June, is scheduled to open in early 2013. "We continue to think that our permits were issued validly and look forward to creating good jobs in the city on the way to opening our store early next year," Restivo said.
The opening of the hiring center comes about a week after more than 70 Walmart workers from nine LA-area stores walked off the job in an unprecedented one-day strike. On Tuesday, 88 Walmart workers from 12 cities followed LA's example and held a day-long protest against low wages and Walmart's attempts to silence workers who speak up about poor working conditions.
Workers are also threatening even larger action on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that's considered one of the biggest shopping days of the year.