Walmart protest precedes council meeting

Opponents of a planned Walmart in Burbank drew upon the strength of unions Tuesday night to give the noisiest local protest yet to the mega-retailer.

More than 100 people, bolstered by the organized support of labor unions, swarmed outside Burbank City Hall before the City Council meeting, using a loudspeaker to sound off on the idea of a Walmart next to the Empire Center.

In a show of how the labor movement has latched on to the cause, about 30 members of Warehouse Workers United — which advocates for better working conditions in Inland Empire distribution centers — marched down Olive Avenue to the beat of a snare drum to join the protest.

State regulators recently issued dozens of workplace violations to centers there after the workers protested and brought the issues to the fore.


Two residents who oppose a Burbank Walmart have already been backed by an attorney for the powerful United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 770.

One of them, Kate Nixa, addressed people outside City Hall, touching on a key argument of opponents: that Burbank officials have not done enough to ensure that city infrastructure around an already crowded Empire Center will be able to handle a Walmart.

“The traffic mitigations need to be done before Walmart moves into the Empire Center,” she said.

City Council members were slated to review an assessment of those measures later in the night, although city officials have said that a Walmart meets all zoning regulations, and that little can be done to prevent the move.


But Walmart had its supporters at the protest.

Ron Wood, president and chief executive of the Valley Economic Alliance, said the protest had been fueled by labor unions to bring more attention to the cause.

“We need to call it what it is,” he said, referring to Walmart’s refusal to recognize employee unions.

“This is about jobs; this isn’t about Walmart,” Wood said. “We’d be here in support of Target, Sears, JCPenney or anyone else who would bring 300 jobs to the market immediately.”

Opponents brought up two people who said they worked at Walmart and earned far less than what the corporation promotes per hour. That, combined with the retailer’s stock of foreign-made goods, has been a sore point with some residents.

Still others, such as Billy Henderson of Burbank, said they welcomed the retail giant.

“I have been shopping at Walmart since I was kid. I’d like to see the store here,” he said as dozens of protesters crammed inside for the council meeting.