Sunday, September 21

Wal-Mart Group to Hold Press Conference and Hope for the Best

Gary Sanders, leader of Iowa City Stop Wal-Mart is holding a press conference on Tuesday. Sanders has been a leading advocate against the labor and business practices of Wal-Mart since the 1980's.

The Iowa City Council has had two readings of the ordinance that would allow Wal-Mart to expand in its current location by purchasing other existing business properties and expanding their store to encompass 190,000 square feet. Planning and Zoning commissioners worked diligently within their limitations and caused Wal-Mart to upgrade their construction plans to meet community standards. Iowa City does not have a Big Box Ordinance that limits the size of stores, but does have design standards which the Planning and Zoning Commission enforced. However, now the City Council has to approve the plan and Planning and Zoning recommendations are just one criteria.

At issue for the Iowa City Council is whether allowing this plan to go through is in the "best interest" of the community. Wake Up Wal-Mart, a group that is backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, claims it is not. For instance, Chinese products which make up 70% of Wal-Marts products have had so many safety issues that on several occasions, Wal-Mart and other chains have had to remove them from their shelves. Also, Wal-Mart's treatment of employees has led to many lawsuits, a prominent one was in Minnesota and involved Wal-Mart not paying workers for work breaks.

On Tuesday, Nancy Braun, a lead plaintiff in a $2 billion lawsuit against Wal-Mart for denying work breaks on a massive scale will hold a press conference at the Iowa City Rec Center in meeting room A at 1 pm. According to Sanders, "Ms. Braun will talk about her experiences in her 7 year struggle for justice since the lawsuit was filed".

Later that night the Iowa City city council will be voting for a 3d and final time on approval of Wal-Mart's request for a change in a conditional zoning agreement that would allow Wal-Mart to construct a SuperCenter where their present store is located on Highway 1 West.

In past votes, six of the council members have voted to approve the project, while only one, Mike Wright, opposed it saying he had doubts that Wal-Mart would be a good corporate citizen.

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