Law in the Labor Movement’s Challenge to Wal-Mart: A Case Study of the Inglewood Site Fight

Source: Scott L. Cummings, UCLA School of Law, UCLA Public Law Series, Paper 7-01, July 3, 2007

This Article studies the role of law in the successful community-labor challenge to Wal-Mart’s first proposed Los Angeles-area Supercenter in the working-class city of Inglewood. It focuses on the use of legal and legislative challenges to mobilize opposition to Wal-Mart’s Inglewood initiative—a technique known as the “site fight” because of its focus on blocking Wal-Mart at a specific location. The aims of this Article are twofold. First, it seeks to understand the site fight in relation to broader shifts within the labor movement, which have driven some unions to promote pro-labor legal reform at the municipal government level. Part I therefore explores how labor leaders have responded to the limits of traditional unionism by pursuing an alternative model of labor activism that uses political opportunities available in the local development process to advocate policy reforms designed to increase union density.

Part II provides a detailed case study of the defining campaign of the anti-Wal-Mart movement—the Inglewood site fight—in which labor leaders allied with land use and environmental lawyers to oppose Supercenter plans on the ground that the negative community impacts outweighed consumer benefits.

Part III draws four central lessons from the Inglewood campaign.

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