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Wal-Mart’s Somerville moves raise criticism of Menino’s opposition

Wal-Mart’s Somerville moves raise criticism of Menino’s opposition
Walmart market

By Thomas Grillo  |   Monday, July 25, 2011  |  http://www.bostonherald.com |  Business & Markets

With Wal-Mart eyeing Somerville for its first smaller, urban market store in the Northeast, the Boston City Council president yesterday questioned Hub Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s strong opposition to the world’s largest retailer.

“There are lots of other communities that would embrace a Wal-Mart,” said City Council President Stephen Murphy told the Herald. “What good does it do Boston to lose 450 jobs to Somerville? It doesn’t expand our tax base, employ city residents or provide a low-priced market in a tough economy.”

Despite concerns raised by Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, the Arkansas-based retailer hopes to sign a lease for a Wal-Mart Market at the shuttered Circuit City store next to Home Depot near the Assembly Square Mall. Steven Restivo, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said the 34,000-square-foot store, which still requires city approval for a special permit, could be open within a year.

Though Wal-Mart executives have been scouting sites in Boston’s neighborhoods and meeting with Boston city councilors, Menino has made it clear that the retail giant — which has faced gender discrimination lawsuits from its female employees and questions about wages and benefits — must promise quality jobs and a commitment to Hub neighborhoods before it moves into the city.

Murphy insists Wal-Mart should have the opportunity to plead its case before any decision is made. “Let’s have a conversation to see if we can get what we want on our terms and keep the store and the jobs here,” he said.

Curtatone was on vacation yesterday and unavailable for comment. In a statement, a spokesman said the city of Somerville expects to talk with Wal-Mart this week. He added, “The concept of a fresh-food market is a generally appealing idea, but we have deep concerns about Wal-Mart’s labor policies that must be addressed before we can support them moving into our community.”

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/business/general/view.bg?articleid=1353917


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