Brooklyn, NY - In front of a #1 Stop Grocery at the corner of Irving Avenue and Bleecker Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn, a group of small business owners from Small Business United and workers from Make the Road New York came together to speak out against the negative impact that Walmart will have in their community. For many small business owners in Bushwick, located just 15 minutes from the proposed Walmart site, the prospect of the giant retailer feels like it could be the final nail in the coffin. Workers who have also felt the crisis acutely are concerned because of their long history of labor violations and discrimination.
Francisco Acosta, owner of the #1 Stop Grocery since 1988 said, "This store is our lifeline. It helps provide for my entire family here and abroad. I know that I will compete directly with Walmart to sell many of the goods I currently stock. I can't keep up with their low prices. In tough economic times, this might be what puts me over the edge."
Maria de los Santos, owner of Mary's Jeans and Mary's Flowers, and member of Small Business United said, "Walmart does not share my values. As a small business owner, I invest in my neighborhood because this is where I am raising my family as well. What I make gets re-invested in Bushwick. What Walmart makes in sales will never get put back into the neighborhood."
Isabel Encalada, an Ecuadorian immigrant who worked in the cleanup of Ground Zero, said, "We will not accept poverty wages! Walmart pays its workers an average of $20,774 per year - far below what it takes to provide for a family in New York City. Walmart has a long history of violating minimum wage and hour laws - it has been found liable or settled claims for over $1 billion in wage theft over the past 5 years!"
For Marco Reynoso, the owner of Superstar Deli who has been in business in Bushwick for 25 years, the situation is dire. He explained, "We need to give the community formal opportunities to express our opinion about big new retailers so that the government can make decisions that benefit all of us, not just major multinational companies."
About Small Business United:
Small Business United is a project to lift the voices of small business owners across immigrant neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. We organize small business owners to represent themselves on issues that are important to the community and business.
Make the Road New York (MRNY) is the largest participatory immigrant organization in New York City with 8000 members. With vibrant community centers in Bushwick, Brooklyn; Jackson Heights, Queens; and Port Richmond, Staten Island; MRNY gives voice to thousands of immigrants and working class New Yorkers through community organizing, educates tomorrow's leaders and provides services to support families.