Residents in Bend, Oregon have been boxing with Wal-Mart for more than a year now. Here are excerpts of a Jobs with Justice account of their campaign: “In the fall of 2004, Central Oregon Jobs with Justice distributed educational leaflets at two Wal-Marts in Bend and Redmond, Oregon to inform shoppers about Wal-Mart’s low-wage policies and anti-union and predatory business practices. On February 1, 2005, Wal-Mart announced their plan to build a new Supercenter in Bend. The “Our Community First” task force was formed, a broad based membership, including union members, business owners affected by Wal-Mart, land use and traffic activists, neighborhood associations, and members of the general public concerned about the impact of a third Wal-Mart in Central Oregon. Our Community First hired a land use attorney and a traffic specialist. Coalition members wrote letters to the editor and op-ed articles, appeared on TV and radio, put bumper stickers on their cars and yard signs on their lawns, held rallies, picketed in front of Wal-Mart, and held a petition drive which to date has collected almost 6,000 signatures from community residents against Wal-Mart — more than 10% of Bend’s population! Members of the coalition testified before the Oregon Transportation Commission, who, partially based on the testimony, decided to withhold funds for a highway interchange construction that Wal-Mart was counting on to help with the increased traffic generated by their store. Finally, after months of organizing, the land use hearing officer denied Wal-Mart’s application to build a Supercenter. The impact on traffic and the surrounding neighborhoods was the basis for denying the application. The community has said — loud and clear — that a Wal-Mart supercenter is not welcome. At present, Wal-Mart has appealed the ruling, and the coalition is continuing to build support for their campaign to keep another Wal-Mart out of the community.”
This account highlights, in brief form, many of the necessary ingredients for beating a big box store: 1) a broad-based coalition 2) hiring of land use experts 3) constant visibility in the media and in the community 4) raising money to hire the experts. Now they have Wal-Mart on the defensive, having to appeal a land use hearing officer’s decision.