San Diegans Take a Stand Against Wal-Mart in Historic Sherman Heights Neighborhood

San Diego-Imperial Counties Central Labor Council

Last weekend, more than 750 people took to the streets in San Diego’s largest ever rally and march against Wal-Mart. The coalition of community, faith and labor groups organized this spring to defend Sherman Heights when Wal-Mart snuck into the community and took over the historic Farmer’s Market building.

When news broke in the spring that Wal-Mart was planning to move in, the community mobilized and made a simple request of Wal-Mart: Sit down with the community to discuss what a new market would mean for the neighborhood and how everyone could be sure it would provide a benefit. Instead, Wal-Mart responded by importing labor from outside San Diego and demolishing the historic Farmer’s Market Building without public notice or hearings.

Lawsuits were able to slow the process, and now the permitting process that allowed the demolition is also currently facing a state audit over questionable political donations to city officials.

Genoveva Aguilar of Casa de Vecinos Organizados:

We’ve seen how this company mistreats its employees and how it bulldozes over residents in a community. We don’t need Wal-Mart to come into our city, bringing poor paying jobs and destroying our cultural history.

We rallied together in Golden Hill Community Park and heard from Wal-Mart workers and local leaders, then marched to the former Sherman Heights Farmers Market. It was one of hundreds of marches and rallies calling for change that have been happening nationwide, and comes just a week after Wal-Mart contracted warehouse workers in the Inland Empire and outside of Chicago went on strike in protest of unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices.

Speakers who joined me in addressing the boisterous and respectful crowd included California Assemblymember Ben Hueso, San Diego Unified School Board Member Richard Barrera, UFCW Local 135 President Mickey Kasparian, Father Robert Fambrini, Father Tommie Jennings, and speakers from the OUR Walmart campaign and Warehouse Workers United.

Marchers carried signs of community support and an awesome ‘Wal-Muerte’ puppet menacing the marchers and surrounding neighborhood, reminding everyone what Wal-Mart has in store if they’re able to move in.

The closing rally in front of the Wal-Mart site (and just a few blocks from my own house) included more from Wal-Mart workers and musicians, including a mariachi band and the female chorus group Occupella, entertaining everyone in attendance.

The great event showed the San Diego community at-large that people matter more than profits and a community partner needs to do more for a its community than simply take its money and give back poverty jobs.

Check out news coverage from the event here.