If Target can do it, so can we.
That is the message Walmart sent this week in its latest salvo against unionized labor as part of its advancement into Brooklyn.
“A majority of national retail is non-union,” said Steven Restivo, Walmart’s director of community affairs. “When you look at retail and what we offer employees, we’re very competitive to both full-time and part-time workers.”
Restivo declined comment on rumors that Walmart would lease space at the planned Gateway II shopping center at Jamaica Bay, but noted that such chain stores as Target, Walgreens, Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowe’s are all non-union.
Target, the country’s fifth-largest retail store in sales, is very similar to top retailer Walmart in its merchandise, has three stores spread strategically across the borough.
This includes a location at the Atlantic Terminal Mall in Fort Greene, a central Brooklyn location near Brooklyn College at the Flatbush-Nostrand avenues junction, and the Gateway Shopping Center at Jamaica Bay off Shore Parkway at Erksine Street.
Workers at these Target stores said that they enjoy their work, despite starting salaries for part-timers of $8.50 an hour.
“There are a lot of opportunities for promotion,” said one full-time employee, who refused to give his name. “This store is pretty organized. There are always associates helping people.”
Restivo refused to reveal the starting salary for Walmart employees, but a worker at its North Bergen, N.J. store said starting salaries for part-time workers ranged from $8–$15 per hour, depending on department.
The minimum wage in New Jersey is $7.25 per hour.
“Thousands of people come out to apply for a job every time we open a new store,” said Restivo. “In 2006, when the economy was good, we opened a store in Kearny, and 8,000 people applied for 400 jobs.”
But union officials disagree with Walmart’s thinking.
“Walmart may create jobs on the front end, but they erode them later,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the city’s retail, wholesale and department store union. “Union-busting, neighborhood-crushing Walmart forces out good jobs and reliable retailers while bringing down wages and benefits.”
Appelbaum said he doesn’t see a double standard in the union fighting Walmart and allowing Target.
“Nobody plays the role in American life the way Walmart plays,” said Appelbaum.
Perhaps, but the Mom and Pop stores that Walmart supposedly destroys are certainly not paragons of high pay. At American Housewares on Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn, full-time workers get $500 for a six-day workweek.
And smaller regional stores such as Modell’s Sporting Goods are no better, paying the minimum wage of $7.25 to $8 an hour at its Fulton Mall location.
And, no, that doesn’t come with benefits.
— with Claire Glass and Elizabeth Dana