Hundreds of job applicants lined up outside a Walmart hiring center in St. Petersburg Monday morning, with an all-too-obvious motivation: "Well, for one, it's a job" Dar Tavia said, seconds before being allowed inside to apply for one of 95 positions.
"Because there's nothing else out there right now, honestly," Ralph Whiting confirmed. "I've been out of work for about a year so it'll be a good thing, it'll be a blessing, if I do land something."
Richard Barry said he was recently laid off and told By Pinellas Worknet that Walmart might have some immediate openings. That was not good information.
"I don't see the point to this," Barry told FOX 13 News. "I'm waiting two hours to use a computer to apply and there's no better chance of me getting a job now."
A Walmart official confirmed the first batch of new hires will start in November, the rest in December, for a store that opens in late January.
"We have cashier jobs, customer service jobs, we have sales floor jobs, we have overnight stocking positions available, as well as some key management supervisory positions," store manager Carl Spady said. "Pretty near every job except for mine and the assistant manager."
There is an unusual political sensitivity to this particular Walmart Neighborhood Market: It replaces a Sweetbay that closed in January in Midtown's Tangerine Plaza. Attracting the Midtown Sweetbay was one of the key accomplishments of former mayor Rick Baker.
Mayor Bill Foster, who is running for re-election, claimed he did not know the store was underperforming before it closed. The president of Sweetbay disputed that claim, and said he warned Foster the store was in trouble months before it closed.
"It was hugely important," State Representative Darryl Rouson said Monday. "Some will tell you that he must have gone to sleep for that to have shut down right under his watch and not to have known it."
The Sweetbay closure is on a list of shortcomings African-American leaders see in Mayor Foster.
"I think that we've actually lost ground as a community under Foster's leadership," Rouson said.
Outside the Walmart hiring center, Foster and Baker stood shoulder-to-shoulder greeting job seekers. Baker told FOX 13 News he may endorse one of the mayoral candidates in the near future. Rick Kriseman is challenging Foster, and again noted Baker's silence to date.
"It's always easy to support the incumbent" Kriseman said, "[Baker] hasn't just jumped in right away and done that, and I think that message alone says something."
The mayor's office is nonpartisan, but Kriseman held state office as a Democratic; Baker and Foster are both registered Republicans.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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