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Gilroy, California, is the home of a renowned garlic festival. It also is a town with close to 45,000 residents and an 11 percent unemployment rate. And, soon, it seems likely that Gilroy will be the first community in Northern California's Bay Area to have a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the situation in Gilroy is not without complications. After all, there are unionized grocers in the community - including Safeway, Nob Hill, and Albertsons - concerned that a Wal-Mart Supercenter will only ratchet up the pressure on them in labor negotiations slated to expire this fall. And they're concerned that the opening of a Wal-Mart Supercenter - there already is a discount Wal-Mart there - could put them out of business.

But it is an argument that isn't finding much traction among residents, who see the combination of low prices and potential jobs - even non-union jobs - as almost irresistible.

The town council is scheduled to vote tonight on whether plans for the supercenter should be approved; the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) is fighting against it, even though the supercenter "is expected to bring a 30 percent increase to Gilroy's annual sales tax revenue, and to add 240 new, low-wage jobs to the 260 employees who will move from the old store to the new one."

Of course, the debate takes place against the backdrop of a series of votes taking place up and down the state on whether Wal-Mart should be allowed to open stores in various communities. Contra Costa County voted in favor of Wal-Mart, San Marcos (a community near San Diego) voted against it, and Inglewood, in the shadow of Los Angeles International Airport, is scheduled to vote on the issue next month.
KC's View:
Two hundred and forty new jobs is tough to argue with. We suspect that the union has no shot at convincing the town council that Wal-Mart needs to be thrown out. After all, voters with jobs are friendly voters; voters without jobs tend to be a little irritable.

Though it'll be interesting to check back with Gilroy in a year or two and see if other businesses have had to lay off workers because of Wal-Mart's entry, and what it means in terms of the net increase - or decrease - in jobs there.

For example, the Mercury News also reported over the weekend that "the Bay Area Economic Forum says grocery workers in the Bay Area now earn $1.5 billion a year plus benefits -- but if big box stores such as Wal-Mart move in as they have in other urban areas, 'this wage-benefit payroll is estimated to fall by between $353 million and $677 million.'"

Nothing is as simple as it seems.

By the way, no offense to Inglewood, but we're amused by the fact that it is resisting a Wal-Mart. Last time we were there, it seemed like it was nothing else but strip shopping centers, fast food joints, and warehouses.