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Citizen Groups to Protest Walmart Coming to Newark; Mega Retailer Says it Has No Plans for City Store

March 20, 2013

Published December 3, 2013 in the Star Ledger
By Eunice Lee

Newark-Several citizen groups are slated to gather outside city hall today to protest what they believe is a Walmart proposed to open in Newark's Central Ward.

However a spokesman for the retailer said Walmart has no current plans to open a new store in Newark.

"We just don't have any projects at this point," spokesman Bill Wertz said today. "We are looking, absolutely. We would like to be in Newark."

More than 10 community groups will gather on the hall's steps today to voice their opposition to the big-box retailer's low wages and potential to drive local mom-and-pop shops out of business, organizers say.

The site in question is a vacant lot on Springfield Avenue between Jones and Prince streets, according to protest organizers. Newark city officials were not immediately available for comment.

"What we don't want to see is our community moving backwards," Alex Gomez, community outreach coordinator for Working Families United for New Jersey, said of Walmart's plans to open in the state's largest city. The Trenton-based group is organizing today's rally which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. "It might be a job but it's not a livable job," he said.

New Jersey NAACP President James Harris is scheduled to join Working Families United in addition to union leaders and local clergy. West Ward Councilman Ron Rice, whose name was circulated on the list of rally attendees, said he was unsure whether he'd be at the rally but said he supported giving the groups a chance to speak out.

Rice said he's personally opposed to Walmart coming to Newark but acknowledged the need for jobs and development in the city.

'We have a chronic need for jobs in Newark and I'm no fool about that," he said. "It's a tough choice."

The project's developer is the Illinois-based Tucker Development, the same group that opened a brand new Courtyard Marriott on Broad Street in September.

Lawrence Hamm, chairman for the People's Organization for Progress, said his main concern is Walmart's anti-union stance.

"If Walmart could find a way to be a good corporate neighbor/' he said, "then I'm sure people would have a different attitude about it but for the moment, that's the main reason for our opposition."

Responding in an email to Hamm's, Walmart spokesman Wertz said the company has donated nearly $3 million over the last four years to New Jersey organizations as part of its "State Giving Program." He added that Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker "have publicly thanked Walmart for all it did to help state residents during Hurricane Sandy."

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