An open letter to Walmart

As regulars on GMD already know, I am the spokesperson for Northwest Citizens for Responsible Growth, a Franklin County grassroots group that opposed permitting for the state’s largest Walmart on a tract of prime ag soils in St. Albans.  For ten years we did all that could be legally done to resist the siting; twenty, if you count the first, successful, effort to oppose location of the store there.

Developer JL Davis finally broke ground shortly before the election.  The topsoil has been removed and massive earthworks are underway to permanently take the land out of productive use.  The die has been cast and there is no turning back.

It seems like an opportune moment to remind Walmart that the world will be watching how it comports itself at the location of the longest organized resistance to a store siting.  Here follows the open letter that will be circulated to the press later today:

Now that JLD Properties has held its Walmart ground-breaking, we would like to use this opportunity to say that we are confident that Walmart will take every measure necessary to ensure that the St. Albans store will be the most ethically operated Walmart in history; that its workers will have nothing but positive employment experiences, and will be free to organize; that the store will not engage in predatory marketing schemes; that the historic St. Albans downtown will remain a vital community marketplace;  that the emerging importance of our working landscape will not be damaged; and that none of the negative impacts that have occurred in other communities when Walmart came to town will happen here.  

We are certain of this because Walmart will know that we are watching; and that we will continue watching and sharing our experiences, nationwide, through an extensive grassroots network of concerned citizen groups, with other communities who are being targeted by the retail giant.

St. Albans has become a national stage on which Walmart should want to perform conspicuously above reproach.  We have the opportunity to share these experiences more broadly than has ever been done before.

Furthermore, the developer, JL Davis, will know that we are watching to see that every assertion he made in the permit process holds up.  These include promises regarding quality job creation, traffic, viability of local retail and other important measures of community well-being; as well as the absence of “secondary growth” pressures beyond what existed at the time that Walmart received its permit.   In our opinion, Mr. Davis’ assertions in the permit process become Walmart’s obligations to Franklin County as a whole, once the giant retailer occupies his store.  

We recognize that enforcement mechanisms within the permit system are woefully inadequate; so we will not rely on official action to address broken promises.  Should we be disappointed in our expectations, and should any of the assertions made by Mr. Davis and Walmart over the course of the permit process prove, in reality, to have been untrue, we are prepared to hold Walmart accountable through organized market action.


About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

8 thoughts on “An open letter to Walmart

  1. this is what Bill Wertz, Director of Community & Media Relations-East for Walmart stores emailed me about the St. Albans location when I asked him if the company had any comments on the occasion of Davis’ groundbreaking:

    He says there will be 200 employees,

    mostly full-time.

    The average wage for regular, full-time hourly associates in Vermont is $13.38 per hour.

    And this is what  we learn about the reality of Walmart employment that is prompting the Black Friday Boycott:

    Low-level workers typically start near minimum wage, and have the potential to earn raises of 20 to 40 cents an hour through incremental promotions. Flawless performance merits a 60 cent raise per year under the policy, regardless of how much time an employee has worked for the company. As a result, a “solid performer” who starts at Walmart as a cart pusher making $8 an hour and receives one promotion, about the average rate, can expect to make $10.60 after working at the company for 6 years.

    So, I’d be very interested to learn what Vermont Walmart workers really are earning for their labors.  The Huff Post article goes on to say that store managers often earn in the six-figures.  If their salaries are figured into the “average” quoted by Walmart, it’s no wonder there is such a huge discrepancy between the figures Walmart feels entitled to quote and the reality of “Associates'” wages!

  2. WalMart exists to transfer wealth from the poor and lower middle class into the pockets of obscenely wealthy Republican donors.

    Their business plan relies on impoverished employees that don’t even meet the poverty level, have to rely on welfare to not die of starvation, and have no career track, killing American economy and jobs, and building the Communist Chinese into the sole global economic superpower.

    St. Albans Wal-Mart will NOT deviate from that plan.  Doing otherwise interferes with profits.

  3. He said “The average wage for regular, full-time hourly associates in Vermont is $13.38 per hour.”

    What percentage of employees work full-time?  

  4. 60 cent raise per year

    a cart pusher making $8 an hour and receives one promotion, about the average rate, can expect to make $10.60 after working at the company for 6 years.

    Multiply 60 cents an hour raise by 6 years and I get $3.60. Add that to the starting pay of $8 per hour, and I get $11.60, not $10.60. Even if you exclude the first year, 5 years of raises would equal $3, and the hourly rate after 6 years of employment would be $11.

    The facts are bad enough, no need to make them look worse.

    If there’s an obvious explanation that I’ve missed, or I’ve misunderstood the terms here, let me know, and I’ll apologize.


    As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters. ~ Grover Cleveland

  5. Who will be the handful of relatively highly paid “associates” in the store, and what will their pay be? How far will their pay skew the average to look like it’s far higher than the median?

  6. That’s why the assertion that most of the 200 employees would be full-time is so intriguing.

    This time, we’ll be paying attention and asking around.  And window-dressing in the first six months won’t satisfy us.  We ain’t goin’ anywhere.

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