Filipinos protest vs Walmart in Los Angeles

by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Jul 03 2012 12:04 PM | Updated as of Jul 03 2012 08:04 PM

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Filipinos joined thousands over the weekend in what organizers claimed was the largest protest against the world's biggest store chain - Walmart.

Walmart is set to build a new branch in Chinatown, an area wedged between downtown LA and historic Filipinotown.

Fil-Am activist Diane Valencia of the Southeast Asian Community Alliance believes having a Walmart store in the neighborhood would kill small businesses and affect many residents that live in the area.

"A lot of the youth that I work with are from this neighborhood and a lot of their families struggle in this neighborhood working in the sweatshops, the restaurants or even in the businesses so it's going to be a threat to their families," she explained.

"It's going to be real bad, because most of the families here own businesses so it's bad for them," added Adriel Ramos, a resident of Chinatown.

Retail giant Walmart said it is not trying to compete with small businesses and hopes to bring fresh food items to an area that has no major grocery chain. The company said it will generate new jobs in the community and replace a dormant property.

Angie Bernardo Rodriguez who works at a nearby Walmart store for 8 years believes the jobs promised by the giant retail store chain may not be as good as it sounds.

"Lumaki yung store, lumiit yung employado ang ibig sabhin maraming ginagawang trabaho ang isang tao. Ako medyo tumaas lang ang sweldo ko kasi aggressive ako, yung mga hindi nagsasalita wala pang $10 per hour ang kinikita," explained the full-time overnight stocker who earns $11 an hour.

The advocacy group Our Walmart, composed of Walmart employees, has teamed up with the National Alliance of Filipino Concerns (NAFCON).

"We see the poor treatment of Filipino workers and other Walmart workers. Now that they're building this Walmart here in Chinatown, seeing how they will damage and hurt the local businesses here, it's an injustice against the community," said Alex Montances of NAFCON.

Walmart officials said they are committed to working with the community as they build three new Los Angeles county branches that promise to give 200 new jobs. The City's planning commission will hold a public hearing on Walmart's Chinatown project on July 12.