A Target Corp. official was wrong last week when he told the Santa Rosa Planning Commission that 60 percent of the workforce at the future Coddingtown store would be full-time workers, a company spokeswoman said this week.
It's more likely that at least 60 percent will be part-timers.
The acknowledgment of the misinformation has emboldened critics of the big-box retailer's employment practices and caused one commissioner to say she might have voted differently if accurate information had been presented.
"I really don't like the fact that I was given misinformation," Commissioner Caroline Banuelos said. "It definitely gives me pause about whether I would have voted for it."
The commission voted 4-0 (three members were absent) last Thursday to grant Coddingtown a use permit for construction of a 143,000-square-foot Target on the site of the former Gottschalks building, vacant since 2009.
Marty Bennett, co-chairman of the Living Wage Coalition of Sonoma County, urged the commission to require a community impact report for the project, which he said was the only way to gain an accurate picture of, among other things, the project's impact on local retailers, its ratio of full-time to part-time workers, the pay workers receive and how many actually get benefits.
The Target project has been hailed as a potential boon to the aging Coddingtown mall, which struggles with low traffic but which in recent years has added new tenants such as Whole Foods and BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse. Santa Rosa doesn't require community impact reports on big projects, but some cities, including Petaluma and San Rafael, do.
Bennett told the commission that Target would create 200 "low-wage jobs" and that "most will be part time," and that a report on Target estimated only 37 percent of workers receive benefits. He blamed large retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart for the increasing number of workers without health care, which he said shifts costs to the public sector.
John Dewes, regional development manager of real estate for the Minneapolis, Minn.-based retailer, sought to rebut such claims. Dewes, in what he said was an effort to clarify the issue, told the commission he was "very familiar" with the study that Bennett cited and said it "doesn't actually match with the reality."
Of the 200 to 250 employees expected to be employed at the store, Dewes said, 60 percent would be full time, with the remainder split evenly among part-timers working 20 to 32 hours per week, who get some benefits, and those who work less, who receive none.
He denied the implication that Target hires a high number of part-time workers to avoid paying medical and other benefits. He said the company would prefer if more part-timers worked enough to qualify for benefits, but said many are students who prefer fewer hours for scheduling reasons.
"There is no concerted effort to try to keep people at a certain level by any means," Dewes said.
A Target spokeswoman said employees who work 2? days a week are eligible for health care coverage after six months.
During Dewes' remarks to the commission, Bennett audibly scoffed. After the meeting, he said Dewes' statements were false and contradicted by other Target sources. He cited a report entitled Conditions for Workers at Target: Estimates for a Proposed California Supercenter, by Jeannette Wicks-Lim, assistant research professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.