As part of its expansion in Southern California, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is opening a hiring center for its Neighborhood Market under construction in Chinatown.
The temporary hiring office, opening Thursday on Hill Street in Chinatown, will ultimately hire 65 mostly full-time cashiers, stockers and supervisors at the grocery store, store manager Kenney Tran said. "We're going to provide good jobs and bring accessible groceries and affordable options to the community," he said.
The new market, set to open early next year at Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues, is one of 21 new Wal-Mart grocery stores announced in California. And on Wednesday, the discount giant said it plans to speed up the opening of its smaller-format grocery and express stores to compete better in cities.
William Simon, chief executive of Wal-Mart's U.S. division, said the company aims to have 500 Neighborhood Market grocery shops and 12 Express stores open by fiscal 2016. At the end of July, the retailer operated 217 Neighborhood Markets and 10 Express locations.
"This gives us an opportunity to build more stores for less money," Simon said Wednesday during an analysts meeting near the retailer's Bentonville, Ark., headquarters.
Both models are designed to help Wal-Mart expand beyond suburban areas into densely populated urban cores and compete against dollar stores and convenience shops. The Express format, usually 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, carries groceries and other merchandise; the Neighborhood Market concept tends to come in less than 55,000 square feet and offers products found at grocery stores.
The 33,000-square-foot Chinatown store is now filled with tool-toting construction workers who are installing coolers for milk, meat and other perishables.
Labor and activist groups accuse the retailer of providing poor wages to its workers and have fought the opening of the Chinatown store. Some of them are backing a strike by 88 Wal-Mart employees scattered among a dozen cities who walked off the job Tuesday and protested Wednesday at the company's headquarters. The company has 1.3 million workers worldwide.
If Wal-Mart does not meet at least some employee demands, organizers said they planned further action on Black Friday, possibly including strikes and rallies, said Jorge Amaro of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which is supporting the striking workers.
Dan Fogleman, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said the majority of the company's employees are satisfied and that turnover rates at the company are lower than the industry average.
"It's no secret the unions have been trying to unionize Wal-Mart for years," Fogleman said, adding that the striking workers are supported by unions who "seek to further their own political agendas."
He declined to speculate on what might occur Black Friday if disgruntled workers stage protests.
In Los Angeles, Javier Perez, 21, said he was eager to find work. The Chinatown resident, who has been unemployed for more than a year, applied for multiple positions at the Chinatown hiring office.
"I've applied to supermarkets, furniture stores, all kinds of places, but they don't hire anybody," Perez said. "The economy is still pretty messed up."