To help feed its hopes for a superstore empire in California,Wal-Mart has announced this week that it is proposing a regional distribution center in Merced, California. Wal-Mart currently has 111 distribution centers in the United States, roughly 1 distribution center for every 34 Wal-Mart stores. According to the company’s press release, “The center will offer competitive wages through the initial creation of some 600 full-time jobs. Wal-Mart offered “special recognition” to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for helping in the location of this D.C. Wal-Mart also claims that its truck fleet is now part of the “environmentlally conscious” SmartWay Transport Partnership “that increases the U.S.’s energy efficiency and energy security, while reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.” Wal-Mart said it is trying to create a “greener fleet”, with the implementation of new “idle reduction technology,” to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Wal-Mart says it now operates 4 supercenters in California (it’s announced goal is 40), plus 149 discount stores and 34 Sam’s Clubs. The company says it paid $99.7 million in state and local taxes, and donated $8.6 million to local charities, apropos of nothing.
The proposed Distribution Center in Merced will not create 600 jobs. That’s a gross figure, not a net. The DC actually will result in a substantial loss of existing jobs both in the food and department store merchandise distribution network, and at the retail store level. In addition, Wal-Mart often asks for public tax subsidies and infrastructure grants to build these D.C.s. These facilities lower air quality wherever they are built, and talk of a “greener fleet” means they are trying to reduce typical air pollution below what normally happens when you bring hundreds of trucks together into one place, but the air quality will go down, not up. The company’s figures for state and local taxes paid are all gross figures which do not account for the major offset in lost jobs and taxes paid elsewhere in the economy as Wal-Mart takes market share from existing merchants. For example, Wal-Mart now controls 22% of the food business in America. This has cost other grocers tens of thousands of jobs. As for corporate donations — all of which come directly or indirectly from customers, it has nothing to do with land use decisions, and locally-owned businesses, on a percentage of revenue basis, give as much or more than Wal-Mart. For more background on how Wal-Mart has used tax subsidies to build its empire, contact [email protected], or search Newsflash by “distribution center”.