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Union activists want Wal-Marts in Tampa Bay region to pay price for offshoring security costs

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Although retail giant Wal-Mart is known for low prices, it’s increasingly earning a reputation for offshoring security costs to local law enforcement agencies.

Earlier this year, the Tampa Bay Times reported that law enforcement in four counties logged 16,800 calls to Wal-Marts in one year alone.

It’s much the same around the nation. An Arizona Republic investigation published this month revealed that between 2011-2016, three of the top five addresses to which Phoenix police officers responded were Wal-Mart stores.

In Beech Grove, Indiana, city officials in 2015 declared Wal-Mart a public nuisance, after a local news station reported that Beech Grove police had been called to the store more than 1,000 times in the last two years.

“We’re very concerned about this issue,” said Marc Rodriguez of the West Central Florida Labor Council. Rodriguez was gathered with activists with the Fight for $15! movement in front of the Wal-Mart store on Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.

“We know that Wal-Mart is a tremendously profitable corporation. They’re the largest retailer,” he said. “The largest private sector in the world, and with all of that we feel that a basic level of responsibility should come with that as well.”

Jenny Divish, an organizer for Making Change at Wal-Mart, said that they’re working on trying to get the Tampa City Council to pass an ordinance that would penalize and fine a property owner or tenant $2,500 for every call that exceeds more than 10 calls to the police per month.

“Until we get them to the city council until we pass this resolution like Beech Grove, Indiana and all these cities,” Divish said, “Wal-Mart’s not going to be held accountable and they’re still going to take these public dollars, until they’re held accountable at a higher level.”

Divish said in her discussion with council members, there is a desire for more hard data on calls to service before they come forward with any resolution.

Making Change at Wal-Mart is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

 “The reason why this issue exists its part of a pattern on the part of Wal-Mart in terms of irresponsible business practices and in terms of trying to cut corners,” Rodriguez said. “We know that in recent years Wal-Mart has eliminated a lot of positions. They’re eliminating cashiers and replacing them with machines. It gives people the message that Wal-Mart doesn’t care about what’s going on in their stores.

“This is part of a pattern, the same way in which Wal-Mart cuts corners and passes the cost of securing their stores onto the public in terms of relying on the police and straining the resources of communities, that’s the same way that they pass the cost of their low wages and lack of benefits on to the public as well.”

Making Change at Wal-Mart said this television ad (shown below) is running in Tampa and other cities Thursday:

 

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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