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Wal-Mart construction workers don't want Chinatown project stopped

September 6, 2012 |  1:09 pm

About 30 nonunion construction workers hired to build the hotly contested Chinatown Wal-Mart gathered at the site Thursday to protest a potential restraining order that they said could halt the project and cause them serious financial harm.

Organized labor groups and local business leaders who say Wal-Mart will endanger the neighborhood's character successfully lobbied the City Council for a ban on big-box retailers in the area, but the action came too late to stop construction. The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 plan to ask a judge Friday to stop the work until a Nov. 13 hearing to appeal the project's approval.

But Jim Peevey, a part-owner of Grant Construction, Wal-Mart's contractor, said that even a temporary stoppage could harm the more than 100 construction workers on the project as well as the suppliers they use. Work is scarce and Peevey said his employees need all they can find.

"This issue is not about Wal-Mart," Peevey said. "Men and women are counting on these jobs."

Jeremy Shedd, an electrician foreman with a company that subcontracts with Grant General Contractors, says projects like the Chinatown Wal-Mart employ 20 to 25 electricians for up to eight months.

"When this job shuts down, we'll end up sitting at home for who knows how long," Shedd said.

Gideon Kracov, the attorney for the two groups seeking the restraining order, also appeared at the Thursday morning news conference. He says Wal-Mart failed to give the required public notices and claims that the project approval was based on traffic studies that are 23 years old. The groups filed suit in July asking that Wal-Mart's request for environmental approval be reissued with proper notification. 

"This case is about transparency and the rule of law," Kracov said. "If Wal-Mart has its way, it'll be a fait accompli without anything being heard."

Representatives of Wal-Mart accused the groups seeking the order of wasting taxpayer money to satisfy their own special interests.

"Not satisfied with their current, meritless lawsuit -- which at its core is all about special interests who are upset that they didn't get special notice about our permits -- this same group now wants to punish the more than 100 construction team members working at our store," Steven Restivo, senior director of community affairs for Wal-Mart, said in a statement Wednesday.

Restivo said the company would continue to move forward with community engagement and planning for the store, and Peevey said his company's work on the project could be complete in three months.

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-- Frank Shyong at Los Angeles City Hall

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