Opponents to Wal-Mart’s entry into New York City are pouncing on allegations of bribery in Mexico to fuel a long-running fight to keep the retailer out of the five boroughs.
Anti-Wal-Mart groups (including make The Road New York) gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday, backed by elected officials and union supporters, to draw attention to alleged violations of U.S. foreign corruption and bribery laws. Two likely mayoral candidates, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, called on the city to keep the company at bay and launch its own investigation into Wal-Mart’s local plans.
“We plan to use the bribery and cover up scandal to hammer every last nail into the coffin and keep Wal-Mart out of New York City,” said Dan Morris, spokesman for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which helped organize the protest.
Wal-Mart dispatched a New York City-based public relations agency to City Hall to hand out a statement. “Our track record as a good corporate citizen is well known and in large cities like New York, residents continue to choose to shop and work at Walmart,” read the message from Steven Restivo, a Wal-Mart community affairs official. “We continue to evaluate opportunities here.”
Wal-Mart has sought a New York outpost for years, sinking millions of dollars into lobbying, advertising and charitable contributions to local causes. The retailer has found support from some unions and politicians, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Earlier this week, the mayor defended Wal-Mart’s choice to open up shop in New York. “Wal-Mart has the right to come here and open a store anytime they want…and you don’t have to work there or patronize them. Or you can apply for a job and give them your business. It’s totally up to you,” he said.
Wal-Mart opponents said Tuesday that the bribery and corruption probe in Mexicoreported over the weekend by the New York Times has chipped away at the public relations effort.
“Whatever success Wal-Mart had in softening its image through charitable contributions has been washed away by its exposure of what Wal-Mart is really about — doing whatever it takes to grow and expand,” said state Assemblyman Rory Lancman.
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