Anyone who's read this blog long enough knows the loathing I have for Wal-Mart as an institution. I think they've done incredible damage to the working class in the US, as well as to the environment and the rights of working people to organize into unions. So when I hear that there's some opposition to Wal-Mart opening a new store in downtown Miami, I'm not exactly sympathetic to the company.
That doesn't, however, mean that I'm necessarily sympathetic to the locals, especially when their opposition is based so strongly on classism.
Wal-Mart's interest is serious enough to have sent some residents and government officials into mini-uproar.Yeah, it would be really horrible if those tuxedo-clad folks would have to actually see working class people in their natural habitats. Don't get me wrong--Wal-Mart is no friend to the working class--but neither, it seems, are the people objecting so loudly to Wal-Mart's move. And anything that keeps a big-box store--any big-box, not just Wal-Mart--from plopping itself down in the middle of an urban area is a good idea. It's just not a good use of space.
"Horrors!!" resident Sharon Dodge recently wrote to City Hall.
Another resident chimed in: "There goes the neighborhood!"
And this, from a City Commission aide: "Visualize a Wal-Mart customer in his pick-up truck, and family of four, driving past tuxedo-clad PAC center guests arriving simultaneously."
But it's hard for me to get behind these sorts of objections, because frankly, these people would also turn their noses up at me as well, driving my '99 Hyundai with the broken door handles and the chipped and flaking paint, even though I would no doubt appreciate many of the productions at the nearby Performing Arts Center.
The objections from Commissioner Marc Sarnoff are better:
What you won't see, according to the commissioner, are a lot of people walking to the store -- making Wal-Mart a bad fit for the city's goal of building foot traffic downtown.Yes yes yes. These are reasons to object to big box retailers in downtown areas--they're not practical when it comes to land use or traffic congestion, and considering that given gas prices, Miami is going to have to become even more public-transportation-friendly instead of less so, that has to be a major consideration when deciding if Wal-Mart should be allowed to build down there.
Sarnoff also cites Wal-Mart's heavy reliance on foreign-made products as another reason he won't be shopping there if the downtown location is indeed built.
"If we don't want to outsource our jobs, we should do a better job of buying American," Sarnoff said.