Several large supermarket chains have retained a consulting firm to help them block development of Wal-Mart Supercenters around the country in recent years, according to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal.
According to the article, companies including Ahold, Safeway and Supervalu have paid the firm, Saint Consulting Group, to organize opposition to proposed Wal-Mart developments in dozens of markets, including ones in Pennsylvania, Chicago and California.
Saint Consulting, working clandestinely without revealing that it was funded by the supermarkets, reportedly built upon existing grass-roots opposition or created its own opposition by launching petition drives and repeatedly phoning local politicians. It also hired legal and traffic experts to argue against some developments.
In addition, Saint Consulting’s activities were sometimes funded in part by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, according to the WSJ. A spokeswoman for the UFCW was quoted as saying the campaigns were protected by free speech.
The article said Safeway declined to comment and that Ahold and Supervalu could not be reached for comment.
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