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Labor calls for politicians to return Wal-Mart donations

May 14, 2012 |  4:13 pm

Labor groups call on politicians to return Wal-Mart donations

Escalating a campaign against Wal-Mart, a labor group Monday demanded that politicians across the state refuse to accept campaign donations from the big-box retailer and that they return any money already received.

Los Angeles County Federation of Labor leader Maria Elena Durazo said Wal-Mart donations have been tainted by recent allegations that the Bentonville, Ark., company engaged in widespread bribery of Mexican officials to gain approval for new stores there. 

Wal-Mart is attempting to quickly expand in Los Angeles, she said, and money given to politicians should be viewed with suspicion. The company is building two new grocery-only stores, one in Panorama City and another in Chinatown.

Permits for the Chinatown store, at Cesare Chavez and Grand avenues, were granted the day before the City Council was to vote on an ordinance that would have halted, at least temporarily, the grocery store's construction, Durazo noted.

"I'm not saying they did anything improper,'' she said. "But it went through the afternoon before the vote takes place? There’s just a question mark there."

An appeal of its permits for the Chinatown store was turned down by the city late last week. The retailing giant has defended the downtown location as welcomed by its neighbors and portrayed opponents as "special interests" made up of unions and their community allies.

“We remain committed to serving customers in Los Angeles and continue to focus on things residents care about, like jobs, healthier foods, sustainability and workforce development," said spokesman Steven Restivo. "Our commitment won’t change, and we’ll continue to seek opportunities to support programs and individuals that make a positive impact on the communities where we do business."

Both stores are on track to open by year's end, company officials said.

Durazo said Wal-Mart donates across the political spectrum, giving in the past to both former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jerry Brown. State campaign finance records show the company has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to a variety of candidates and causes over the years.

Donations for the current state election cycle, starting Jan. 1, have not yet been reported.

With the two new stores, Wal-Mart will have seven locations in Los Angeles. There has been little opposition to the Panorama City store, located in a vacant building near the intersection of Nordhoff Street and Van Nuys Boulevard.

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-- Catherine Saillant

Photo: A view of a Wal-Mart supermarket in Mexico City last month. Credit: Yuri Cortez / AFP / Getty Images

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