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Workers Set to Testify at Second Wal-Mart Hearing

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wal-Mart workers, former and current, will testify Thursday at the City Council's second and final hearing into the labor practices of of the retail giant, which is expected to get blasted by the employees following a fiery council meeting that drew protesters two weeks ago.

Elected officials said these hearings are necessary to understand Wal-Mart’s potential impact on New York City as it seeks to open stores here.

Wal-Mart executives, who were not present during the last hearing, plan to skip this one as well. As with the previous hearing, Wal-Mart’s critics will make up the majority of those attending.

Philip Serghini, a senior manager for community affairs at Wal-Mart, sent members of the Civil Service, Women’s Issues and Civil Rights committees a letter restating the retailer’s position that the Council should “review … existing businesses in the city before embarking on a theoretical exercise.” 

Last week, company representatives held an hour-long meeting with City Council speaker Christine Quinn.  She has been a staunch critic of Wal-Mart.

During an interview with Brian Lehrer on WNYC on Wednesday, Quinn said the meeting was professional, but that “nothing in the meeting changed my opinion.”  She added, “There will have to be some very significant corporate changes before my opinion changes.  I’m not overly optimistic but, you know obviously, never say never.”

In the meantime, Wal-Mart has kicked off another media campaign to win over New Yorkers.  In addition to radio ads, the retailer will also air TV commercials for the first time. The ads were developed for national audiences, but have yet to air locally in New York City.

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