Wal-Mart Chinatown: Q&A With Chester Chong, L.A. Chinese Chamber
The L.A. City Planning Committee recently passed a temporary ban on large chain retailers from opening in Chinatown, but their action came too late to hinder Wal-Mart’s construction, which the stores should wrap up in December. Thousands of people have marched in protest against the chain this summer because of its controversial labor practices and because they say it will be a threat to the many small businesses in the neighborhood. Chester Chong, president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, disagrees. Here is what he had to say.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Wal-Mart grocery store that is in the process of being built in Downtown LA's Chinatown district?
A: From my point of view, you know, Wal-Mart is really important to the Chinatown community. You can imagine, now the economy in the world—especially in Los Angeles—we need business. People need to understand we need to work with each other, not against each other. We need to support each other to make the economy change.
Q: How do you think this will affect the uniqueness of the community?
A: It can attract more development, it can attract more people—it’s a benefit for the community. People say because no union, they don’t pay enough money to the people. Hey, right now a lot of people lost jobs, a lot of people [have] no money. We need to help people.
Q: How do you think this will affect businesses in the area?
A: I've been here for 30 years in Chinatown. Chinatown for the past 30 years—we don't have any change. We need people coming to support the community.
Q: So what do you think of all of the people who have come to Chinatown to protest the Wal-Mart?
A: The people protest because they [are] lazy, they don’t want to work hard. They feel it’s unfair. People have a choice: you want to work for the job or you don’t want to work for that job. Right now a lot of people need jobs. We can compromise. We can talk to the leaders of Wal-Mart. Ok? We can do that instead of just protest. That’s not the right way to do it. I encourage people to sit down and do that instead of fighting.
Q: Do you have anything else you want to add?
A: You have to see the world—we are very lucky. We in America, we’re a lucky group. We have government protection. We have a lot of good things. Look at other countries. Their poor have no food, no water. We are very lucky. We should appreciate it. We should encourage this [Wal-Mart] to create more jobs for our people.
Reach Staff Reporter Katherine Davis here.