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9:30 PM Sun, Dec. 09th

Union starts drive against Wal-Mart

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 99 has organized a political action group to gather signatures for a vote about the Wal-Mart superstore rezoning.

UFCW Local 99 represents union members throughout Arizona, including Kingman.

Heidi Cochran of Kingman is chairman and Mike Vespoli, director of community affairs for the union in Arizona, is listed as treasurer of the political action committee, People Speak.

The committee filed the referendum application Friday in the Kingman City Clerk's office and had no more than 30 days to file at least 157 valid signatures of registered city voters with the city clerk.

When the Kingman City Council meets Nov.

3, officials plan to schedule the mayoral and council primary election for March 9.

The Wal-Mart referendum could be scheduled for that ballot along with any other items the council wants to put before the voters.

The city clerk must go by legal timelines for the signature review process and certification, submission of pro and con arguments and mailing publicity pamphlets.

Depending on the timelines, the Wal-Mart election could be held from March to May.

If too few valid signatures are gathered, the ordinance passed by the City Council to rezone 12 acres of the 25-acre Wal-Mart supercenter site goes into effect.

The site is between Stockton Hill Road and Mohave Wash north of the current Wal-Mart store.

By a 5-1 vote, the council passed a city-initiated rezoning proposal during its Oct.

6 meeting.

The original Wal-Mart rezoning application received a favorable 5-2 vote.

However, Smith's Food and Drug had filed an objection, as the company was entitled, based on a common property line.

That triggered a super-majority requirement of at least a 6-1 vote in facor.

The City Council then voted 5-2 to send a second zoning proposal to the Kingman Planning and Zoning Commission that eliminated the boundary with Smith's.

Jeff Goldberg, a Kingman attorney representing Smith's, has called that second zoning illegal and gerrymandering.

Wal-Mart proposes to build a 200,000 square-foot supercenter that includes a grocery section.

Safeway, Kroger's other grocery chains and the UFCW union have fought the expansion of Wal-Mart into groceries all across the United States.

Unions are on strike in Southern California and in West Virginia asking for more contributions to the health care programs and better wages.

The grocers say they cannot compete with Wal-Mart while paying higher wages plus more health benefits.

Local 99 is currently in negations with employers in Arizona and could take a strike vote if no agreement is reached.