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The War Over "The War Over Walmart" (first of many follow-ups to last week's cover story)


The video above was researched, filmed, and edited by the students and faculty at Press Pass TV, where young people from the Boston area do the sort of badass reporting than the suckers on our local television stations won't do. The clip features many of the same subjects who the Phoenix spoke with for our Walmart story, and in some cases shows those people elaborating on their positions.


There's been a lot of chatter since the Phoenix printed “In the Shadow of Walmart” on the cover of our September 1 issue. In addition to letters, calls, and emails to the Phoenix offices, the story also spread rapidly thanks to a torrent of micro-blogging, and to various sites and pages where the issue continues to be debated.

Generally speaking, readers have commended us for providing a comprehensive overview of Walmart's Boston business dealings (even the Walmart representative himself had nothing awful to say, let alone accuse us of being communists – he just wished we noted these counter-studies). There have also been a number of liberals who were dismayed by our not teeing off on the company (and for citing studies with findings that are favorable to Walmart) – as well as conservatives who are outraged at our attempt to interfere with god's capitalism.

Finally, the Phoenix received a letter from Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts (ULEM) president Darnell Williams, who plays a significant role in the story. Williams does not believe that his perspective was fairly represented, and has presented his case in the correspondence below (which will be printed, in part, in an upcoming Phoenix).

As the reporter who covered this story, and who interviewed several dozen subjects on the matter, I believe that my article speaks for itself. As for two specific items mentioned by Williams:

-I did not “[state] that [ULEM] received $50,000 from [Walmart] as a corporate sponsor” for their recent conference. I specifically wrote: “Walmart donated $50,000 to the ULEM this year, and co-sponsored its recent national convention in Boston...”

-Williams claims that Walmart “did not support ULEM financially” for their national convention. Note: the word “financially.” Not like it matters though, since that's not what I wrote.

Otherwise – and I say this in all honesty – Darnell's letter raises many excellent points on the topic of employment in Roxbury. As this subject continues to be a major issue in that area and elsewhere, I have no doubt that communities will benefit from having as many points of view on the table as possible. That's why we published the piece in the first place.


September 6, 2011

 

Dear Editor,

As President/CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts (ULEM), I would like to respond to the article that appeared in the September 2nd edition of The Phoenix called In The Shadow of Walmart.

As a non-profit organization that has been serving the public since 1917, it is important to state the truth and continue to be transparent with all of our stakeholders and the community at large. For decades, we have been a leader in paving the way for equality in employment, housing, and health care for unemployed and underemployed adult minorities living in Boston. Our clients are un- and under-employed adults, ages 18 to 85 and overwhelmingly people of color, who do not pay any fees and benefit fully from our services. What is even more inspiring is that our clients achieved a job placement rate of over 80% last year, with an average pay of $14.00 per hour which in turn stimulated Boston’s economy and benefitted the broader community.

Many agencies including governmental, corporate, and non-profit believe in our mission and know that we work in an ethical and credible manner. Hence, they have partnered with us to demonstrate their passion for our mission and our ceaseless desire to build a better neighborhood. Walmart is one of nearly 70 corporations that have interfaced with us this past fiscal year. It’s important to note that Walmart did not support ULEM financially for the National Urban League conference. Chris Faraone misspoke when he stated that we received $50,000 from them as a corporate sponsor. The National Urban League organization based in New York City received a sponsorship from Walmart which is posted on their website, www.nul.org, but we as an affiliate did not receive any of those monies. Our entire list of sponsors can be found on our website at http://www.ulem.org/conference/partners.html.

For Chris to say that “Walmart opponents have called bullshit on Williams and his job-creation sound bites”, could not be more farther from the truth. For the record, ULEM’s most recent financial support from Walmart, received in June of 2010, was a $75,000 grant that funds an ongoing “green” community workforce training and information project that provides job training in ULEM’s Customer Service & Sales program. The project also targets 2,250 households within subsidized Boston housing residents, and 100 low to moderate income families households residing in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan to receive information on no-cost or cost-effective approaches for home improvements through the dissemination of energy efficiency ‘kits’ and a Resource Guide.

At ULEM, our advocacy for job growth and economic development remains front and center to our work. Our job is to ask the tough questions and hold people and their organizations accountable to their track record and economic impact. Secondarily, we have advocated that the high rates of under-employment and unemployment in the Black community warrant a discussion about permanent job growth and potential construction jobs for a community that desperately needs it. Lastly, I believe that the people who do not have a job at least should be asked what they want! It seems that everyone with a job or a career has been quick to say NIMBY. I say let's talk and find out what is on the table, and then determine the next best steps for the community going forward.

I hope this helps give you a sense of our position and purpose.

 

Sincerely,

Darnell L. Williams

President/CEO of the Urban League

 

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