The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Those horrible capitalists are lowering prices again! They must be stopped!

Union blackmail? Not at all
By Neil Struthers

The Nov. 12 Mercury News editorial about local labor unions got it all wrong. The editorial accused the unions of threatening blackmail if Lowe's Home Improvement Center does not promise to construct its proposed project in San Jose with union labor. Wrong. It takes very few construction workers to build a big concrete box. That's not what this is about.

The issue is about making smart decisions for our community so that we maximize the economic benefits and minimize the environmental impacts of land-use decisions. There are only a limited number of sites in San Jose suitable for development. We can't afford to waste them on projects that do more harm than good.


If we are to increase the tax base and create good jobs, development in San Jose must be based on smart growth principles so we don't squander what makes Silicon Valley special. The Lowe's hardware store is not an example of smart growth. It is just another big box retailer that will clog traffic, worsen air quality, drive local stores out of business, create low-wage jobs and, by the way, destroy a historic building and hundreds of trees in the process.

The claim that Lowe's will increase San Jose's sales tax revenue is dubious at best. It's more likely that Lowe's will steal sales from the more than two-dozen other hardware stores in the city. Taking sales from local retailers may be good for a mega-corporation, but it's bad for our existing neighborhood businesses and provides no net increase in sales tax.

It's a myth that giant operations like Lowe's create good full-time jobs. They compete for market share by paying low wages and burden public services like health care by providing poor benefits. They destroy jobs at existing retailers. The IBM site was home to hundreds of high-quality jobs. That's the kind of smart-growth economic development we need.


NEIL STRUTHERS is the CEO of the Santa Clara and Benito Counties Building & Construction Trades Council.

If San Jose really wanted to regulate growth to avoid traffic and pollution, wouldn't the best method be to prevent any new construction whatsoever? After all, there are existing buildings that work just fine. If a store or office moves into an abandoned building, it can just use that structure. Building a new one is wasteful. Think about all the money used for demolition, foundation, walls, etc. that could be used to save baby whales or whatever.

I wonder what the Building and Construction Trades folks would think about that?



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