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Monday, February 26

Gapers Block

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Ralphie / July 27, 2006 10:54 AM

Does that have anything to do with those emails I keep getting about lonely married women in my neighborhood who want hot sex?

C. / July 27, 2006 11:07 AM

Here's the text of an email I got today from my alderperson after I sent an email a few days ago urging her to vote "yes":

Alderman Daley voted against the big-box ordinance. While she received many thoughtful calls and letters on both sides of the issue, her belief is that each alderman should have the right to decide which businesses are welcome or denied in the their areas. What is needed in Lincoln Park is not the same as in Garfield Park.

The issue of wages is another matter entirely. Congress should enact regional minimum wages - rather than national minimums. They actually manage that for themselves (office expense allocations to members of Congress are based on the area represented) and should do the same for hourly workers. Or, the City or State should look at again raising the minimum wage across the board, not for individual types of businesses.

Hmmm. I'd like to hear an argument about Lincoln Park's "need" for a Wal-mart being more crucial than Garfield Park's need!

Andrew / July 27, 2006 11:11 AM

I think it's great, but it doesn't kick in until 2010 -- which means retailers have three and a half years to drop a store in, make oodles of cash, then either close up shop and leave or make slightly smaller oodles of cash. My guess is that by then Walmart, Target, etc. will be even more saturated outside the city than they are now, and leaving won't be an option. Especially when they're still making their oodles.

lara / July 27, 2006 11:12 AM

i am deeply heartened by its passing. most policymakers view their roles as a conservative reflection of the masses--that they ought not enact new policy unless it reflects such a banal level of common sense. chicago alderman have proven themselves much more forward thinking than that of late. good policy *can* shape debate, act as public education, and set agendas. this city has such a legacy of privilege swapping, but it seems that some threads of social justice are makiing it all the way to city hall.

cities like chicago have the economic clout (both at the governmental and at the general population spending levels) to advance policy which checks the explotative practices of major corporations. the fears of west- and south- side residents that such policy will stifle economic development in their communities are legitimate but not determinate. we need to encourage our alderman to continue exploring ways to stimulate these communities in sustainable ways that neither exploit labor pools nor distructively gentrify neighborhoods. smart urban planning is not impossible. thus, we should not react in fear against just legislation like this ordinance, but rather use the attention to open up the discussion about what sustainable development looks like.

yet again--yay, chicago!!!!

waleeta / July 27, 2006 11:23 AM

Honestly, I love Chicago's social conscience. I think it's unsurpassed in the U.S.

That's right, San Francisco and Seattle.

Mason / July 27, 2006 11:23 AM

Boo. This will do nothing but restrict my retail options and restrict job availability in the process. How did Target become the bogeyman all of a sudden? To my knowledge, they don't even have the same kind of "questionable" hiring and promotion practices that has been alleged of Walmart. So why do they deserve to be put into the same category?

Because, to be sure, they're really harming all those "mom and pop" operations on Michigan Ave......

Mikey / July 27, 2006 11:31 AM

I'm pleased...

And you just wait and see. The Wal-Marts and the Targets will not only not flee the city, but will continue to erect new big box stores. Even with the increased wages, there's just too much money to be made here.

From The Motley Fool website 10/2/02:

According to an article in The Seattle Times, William J. McDonough, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and possible successor to Alan Greenspan, decried the fact that while 20 years ago the average CEO earned 42 times what the average production worker did, the average CEO today earns 500 times what the average employee does...

That being said, I think they can afford to pay all of their employees living wages...

C. / July 27, 2006 11:51 AM

Mason, I've heard a lot of people decrying this ordinance because it "unfairly" targets the companies with larger retail facilities. To your point, I'm sure the multinational chains on Michigan Ave aren't paragons of offering living wages or fair hiring practices either.

However, I still thing it makes sense to target the "big box" retailers with this ordinance. They're the ones that hire large numbers of entry-level workers to unload, stock, and provide customer service in their vast spaces and they're also among the larger retail chains in the country--comfortably clearing profits every quarter.

Saying the city should wait to target every employer in the city simultaneously in order to require living wages makes about as much sense as not regulating factory CO2 emissions while I still have a refrigerator running in my home. Why shouldn't they start with the worst offenders?

Ramsin / July 27, 2006 12:01 PM

Yeah, uh, those big box retailers sure don't mind the "special treatment" they get in the form of massive property tax breaks and infrastructural support for their huge stores that snarl traffic and put stress on public works and services. But when its their turn to give back--here come the waterworks. "Boo-hoo, leave us alone!"

Pat / July 27, 2006 12:17 PM

In my line of work, I stay very close to Chicago's commercial real estate market. Those guys -- the ones trying to place Lowe's, Kohl's, Home Depots and Targets into neighborhoods around Chicago -- are mad and scared.

Me, I think Chicago's retail opportunities are so robust that big boxes can't afford to truly stay out of our market. I do think, however, that you'll see much more careful site selection decision. They'll only put stores where they're ABSOLUTELY sure they can make their bucks.

Marilyn / July 27, 2006 1:01 PM

I think the big box stores will build under the square footage requirement and thereby slip their giant stores through the even bigger loophole in the law. If the council had some real balls, it would have passed an across-the-board minimum wage/benefit law. But we know how this council works in the city that doesn't...

davin / July 27, 2006 1:12 PM

i don't know how anyone could argue against requiring big business to pay workers more. it doesn't make sense to me.. and we're talking about $10 an hour. that's certainly not even enough to support a family..

Bill V / July 27, 2006 1:27 PM

I think it was a good thing, but look for those companies to get what they want in the end through other deals, etc. It's nothing that will help anyone right now.

I get those lonely housewife emails too. I prefer a smaller box.

Thad / July 27, 2006 1:28 PM

1) Min wage is an issue better handled at the state and fed levels; local govts doing this only further fosters an enviroment where retailers will play one town against another.

2) A more significant, but harder job, would be for the City Council to do more to improve schooling and affordable housing choices within the city, thereby building a better workforce, and helping to make sure that current Chicagoans won't be priced out of the city. Really, this city has a bad history of neglecting schools and bending over the developers when it comes to affordable housing.

3) City and county leaders may be able to better attract employers by getting a handle on taxes, property and otherwise. A good start would be trimming the fat at the County level.

4) Job creation likely also would be helped by a better mass transit system. The city needs to increase its contributions to the CTA (if possible), and Daley needs to lobby harder for more mass transit money, and local leaders need to reoganize the RTA system as well.

5) Finally, would job creation benefit from a more precise use of TIF districts--you know, making sure TIFs are set up in the areas that actually need it most?

This ordinance appeals to the part of me that wants to organize May Day parades, sing the Internationale and stick it to the Wal-Marts of the world.

But I don't think the ordinance will do much of anything except allow the City Council to pat itself on the back and get some union support for upcoming elections. The only ones who will benefit, I fear, will be the lawyers during the inevitable and lengthy court challenges.

Craig / July 27, 2006 1:34 PM

Although I'm happy the ordinance passed, I think it dodges the real social issue here-- do big box stores even belong in urban environments?

Urbanity stands for density and diversity, big box stores stand for sprawling offerings and uniformity. The two don't align. I think the big box issue is actually the tip of a much larger iceberg-- the widening rift between American values-- those that value convenience and "low low prices" at any cost versus those who value authenticity of experience and diversity of choice.

Mikey / July 27, 2006 1:50 PM

Marilyn -

You should run for city council since you seem to have all the answers for this embarrassing and pathetic frontier town of ours that doesn't work...

Steve / July 27, 2006 1:59 PM

If the big box retailers come, can the mega-churches be far behind?

Hal / July 27, 2006 2:05 PM

I think it's bad policy, in general, but a side effect is that it may force a re-planning of the Wilson Yard project in the 46th Ward (Target was planning a store there, though the degree to which they were ever serious has been debated). So, in that regard, I'm glad it passed.

Cheryl / July 27, 2006 2:13 PM

I'm impressed this passed with a veto-proof margin.

Amy / July 27, 2006 2:19 PM

Yay Chicago!

I actually wrote to my evil Alder-person (Schulter) and cc:'d it to Target. I so have a Target problem but I would gladly give it up if they actually decide to close/move stores.

The way I look at it is that these corporations are making a ton of money (just like the oil companies), god forbid they lose a bit of profit to make sure that someone can eat better. Oh yeah, not someone - their employees.

Hell, i've lived 31 years without walking into a WalMart - I'll find a way to take my business elsewhere. That's the luxury of living in an urban environment.

esskaycee / July 27, 2006 2:29 PM

Schulter is actually one of the lesser-evil Alderpersons. He actually refused the self-awarded City Council Alderman raise that went through a few years ago, keeping his salary the same. Not sure if he refused this recent raise.

Plus, he loves the doggies!

Avril2080 / July 27, 2006 2:33 PM

Wow. I'm surprised.

So here's my question. If the cost of labor is such a hardship for big box retailers, why bother to open more stores in Chicago or the United States?

It doesn't make sense.

These companies could spend a lot less on labor by expanding operations into Mexico, India and China. I'm sure the citizens of theses countries would be happy to spend money at these stores. (Even if they're employed by them.)

C. / July 27, 2006 2:34 PM

I do feel bad for the close-in suburbs now, though. Many of them are close enough to the city that they don't feel all that "suburban" as it is. But now they'll be under tremendous pressure to host these monolithic stores so they can dodge the ordinance, but still pick up city resident business.

Erik / July 27, 2006 2:37 PM


You start to bring up the first argument that actually has me thinking about something other than lost (potential) jobs. Namely, big boxes might not fit the more dense areas of the city. Those neighborhoods that are already nicely developed with smaller stores certainly are better off than if those stores were replaced by a Target. Smaller specialty stores and boutiques offer generally better selection and service, and I think most folks can appreciate that.

Like I said, this may have been the first time I'd heard an argument that made me think that perhaps discouraging low paying jobs growth could be a good idea. Now that I think about it further, though, I think of the Target I used to go to at 85th and the Dan Ryan, and I don't really think that areas like taht have the kind of investment and development that I think of running up and down Milwaukee. I think that there are parts of Chicago that do need the low-cost clothes and low-level jobs that Target stores bring. Beyond that, I think that big box stores are more likely to have the cash and will to have enough security that frankly is needed for investment in some of the most needy areas of our city.

Sppok / July 27, 2006 2:37 PM

Wow! Impressive points/ comments! Who's runing for Alderperson from the Gapers block community?

Craig / July 27, 2006 3:01 PM


I don't think any area necessarily needs big box stores.

People may need low cost commodities and jobs, but building a Wal-Mart isn't necessarily the only way to achieve this. Did you know that when Wal-Mart builds a new store, they get the local government to subsidize much (sometimes all) of the infrastructure needed? What if that money was put into developing a small-business district instead? This kind of development will provide the desparately needed retail and will build a sustainible infrastructure for a commercial district that can grow organically over time and foster diversity of business. The long term result will be the creation of genuine urban fabric-- something that will last a hell of a lot longer than a big box store will.

Mike / July 27, 2006 3:09 PM

When Wal-Mart is the answer to our city's problems, it's time to cry.

Marilyn / July 27, 2006 3:21 PM

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mikey, but I'm a little busy right now. I've almost got the answer to world peace.

People who can't take criticism of this city don't really love it. I do.

Erik / July 27, 2006 3:21 PM


If you had enough money to start a small store, would you be willing to invest it in Englewood? Would you even be willing to drive through Englewood on the way to Marquette Park?

Deevils Advoc / July 27, 2006 3:29 PM

Of course you don't want big box stores to build in the city. Wal-Mart will ruin your urban aesthetic. You're in an income bracket that can afford to buy at designer shops and boutiques, etc. Your neighborhoods are safe and there are plenty of businesses within walking distance for you to spend your disposable income at. You have cars and can travel for whatever your heart desires. See, I don't have all those things in my neighborhood. I have to travel 5 miles to get to the nearest pharmacy/grocery store/retail store. I don't have a car and the prices are all jacked up because there isn't any competition. I can barely afford necessities for my family or myself. Lastly, you feel as if you know what's better for me than myself. Most reasons you express don't mean a damn to me, I've got more important things to worry about. You got yours, let me get mine.

sb / July 27, 2006 3:52 PM

dear deevils:

wouldn't you rather make $10 an hour than $6?

wouldn't you have a better chance getting ahead making 4 more bucks an hour? it ain't much, but every little bit helps...

this will only be bad for people if walmart and target decide to be really evil and leave chicago. but they'd be losing out on our $$, so i doubt it. if they stay and have to pay people more, everybody wins!

sb / July 27, 2006 3:54 PM

i should also mention that i hate walmart. but deevils has a very good point. better to have walmart than nothing.

Erik / July 27, 2006 3:59 PM


The trick is that the people who run these chains are responsible for keeping the bottom line where it is or better. If they can't make the same kind of profits that they're used to, they may feel more than a little ambivalent about planting another box or two in the areas that could use it.

At the top of these command chains, at the level of the directors and officers of the corporations, the rich old men are actually legally bound to squueze the system for as much money as they can. If they don't act in the best interest of making more money for the company and its shareholders, then they get sued. So if the bottom line does not in fact improve by moving further into Chicago, then they won't do it. In fact, if the bottom line is simply not as improved as stockholders think it should improve, the stockholders will still sue. Blame the lawyers if you want, but more hands are tied than you might think--and those million dollar corporate paychecks are at risk. ;-)

Deevils Advoc / July 27, 2006 4:06 PM


Wal-mart only has 150 job openings and there are 20,000 people that will apply. My chances of getting that job are slim to none. Anyway, I already have a job, but my $10-an-hour income is stretched very thin because I'm supporting a family of 2+ kids.

Craig / July 27, 2006 4:16 PM


It's not about an urban-aesthetic, it's about urbanism. Wal-Mart might save you money, but it's not going to make your neighborhood safer, it's not going to bring more retail stores, and it's not going to make a carless existence any easier. Affordable retail is important, but if that's all we care about, you'll never see things get better in your neighborhood.

Mikey / July 27, 2006 4:25 PM

Marilyn -

I love this city every bit as much as you do. I think criticism of any institution, government, etc. is definitely a good thing...

But I also think that if you do indeed love this city as you say you do, your criticism would be better served constructive and not so condescending...

Our city did something positive that only a few other cities in this nation have had the balls to do, and yet you still found a way to spin it into a negative. Give credit where credit is due, is all I'm saying...

guilty / July 27, 2006 4:28 PM

Here's what I see as the irony - after this goes into effect, the evil big boxes will suddenly become the most "responsible" and desired employers around for low skill level employees. Ever worked at a small business... how many times did you get health insurance offered you, or a retirement plan, or stock options, not to mention a real living wage? Its the same reason I don't feel bad about having the occasional Starbucks - I know even their part time employees get health insurance and a living wage, whereas my friends who have worked at the hipster independent coffehouses around town have been paid peanuts and treated like crap.

Deevils Advoc / July 27, 2006 4:30 PM

It's not about making my neighborhood safer. It's about having access to cheap goods that will enable me to provide for my family better. But, I do think it will make my neighborhood safer in some aspects. Wal-Mart is interested in getting customers in the door to buy products. If people are getting shot outside of it, no one will come. It will take an extra police presence to keep the immediate area safe and I'm sure Wal-Mart would demand and receive such a presence. So there is a link. Also, if Wal-Mart opens it's doors, maybe some other business will come and with that, more policemen. Also, it will make my carless existence much easier. If they build in my hood, I only have to travel 10 minutes to get to wal-mart and I can get everything I need there. Right now, I have to travel 45-60 minutes just to get to the pharmacy! Then, I have to travel another 10 minutes to get to the grocery store! And so-on.

waleeta / July 27, 2006 4:35 PM

Ahhhh, the Prisoners Dilemma. I love this game. What will Wal-Mart and Target do if this or that happens, if the minimum wage is this, of the jobs they create or destroy are that..

All that's going to happen to Target and Wal-Mart is insanely huge profits, instead of UNBELIEVABLY insanely huge profits, and their stores will do juuuuuuuust fine. Plus their workers might actually be paig a living wage.

sb / July 27, 2006 4:40 PM

and their employees will shop there. and if the employees make more they will spend more.

it's the whole henry ford thing. if i recall correctly, he did pretty well financially.

NSH / July 27, 2006 4:44 PM

sb I think you are thinking of Pullman, and that turned out... well not so good.

mistersir / July 27, 2006 4:48 PM

I like Big Box and I cannot lie.

Spence / July 27, 2006 4:50 PM


Actually, I think SB is right about Henry Ford. After the invention of the assembly line, Ford could produce 10X more for less. Henry needed a way to get people to buy and increasing salaries and incentives was the way. It's funny to think Henry Ford is responsible for our mass consumption and disposable culture. Either way, it still didn't turn out very good.

Peter / July 27, 2006 4:51 PM

I think a lot of the people who are patting themselves on the back over this legislation are being misled. Isn't this the same group that rails on about fair treatment and equality?

Well then why aren't the mom and pop stores that pay only minimum wage and don't provide health care drawing any ire? Are they paying a living wage?

I am no fan of Walmart's business practices, but this legislation is frightening in that it is discriminatory in nature (and probably unconstitutional) and that it sets a horrible precedent in Chicago.

You have to to respect the law even in cases where you don't want to. This is a part of what makes this a free country.

Marilyn / July 27, 2006 4:53 PM


Credit where due? I don't think this ordinance solved anything. It is a stunt without teeth to make the aldermen look "independent" of Daley, who increasingly is looking like an albatross for electioneering city officials. There is a huge loophole that Wal-Mart can sail through, as I pointed out, and the ordinance is already looking ripe for a constitutionality challenge. Requiring Wal-Mart to pay a living wage based on the size of its stores begs the question of whether other retailers in smaller stores, but with equal or higher profit margins, should do the same. And what about all the communities around the nation that Wal-Mart exploits? Are we only concerned about the people in our burg? Even if this move is good for Chicago--and I have many doubts about that--are we not our brothers' keeper as well?

I say our cit is not working with sincerity, not condescension. The rampant corruption is evidence of that.

NSH / July 27, 2006 4:54 PM

Spence I was referring to george Pullman's planned community where everyone worked at one place and shopped at the company store, leaving pullman a monopoly of sorts, and leading further to him being buried in an unmarked grave so no one could dig his body up and mutilate it.

Spence / July 27, 2006 4:58 PM


I know about the history of the Pullman community, it's a bit like Disney and central Florida, but less magical.

Spence / July 27, 2006 5:15 PM

And to the topic, I'm not sure if Wal-Mart will build. If they provide the living wage, it pretty much opens the floodgates for every city and town to demand a higher wage. Then their motto could be "Watch out for falling stock prices!"

Mikey / July 27, 2006 5:27 PM

The real tragedy of George M. Pullman was that he started out with such good intentions and idealism, to the extent of even fostering an environment for his employees where culture and the arts were encouraged...

When things got tight, however, he halved the workers' salaries without reducing their rents...

Pure capitalism at its finest...

Cletus Warhol / July 27, 2006 5:35 PM

Here's a picture of George Pullman's unmarked grave.

Devil's Advocate #2 / July 27, 2006 8:38 PM

Well, Devil's Advocate #1, one might argue that you shouldn't have kids that you can't afford to take care of.

Maybe the city should focus on making things better for everyone - not just the people who work at big box stores.

Spook / July 27, 2006 9:15 PM


I beg to differ.
100 year old queen ann homes in the Pullman historic district are magical and even the greystones homes in the area of Pullman where the proliferation of guns would makes the NRA blush with joy are magical. There is nothing Magical about
Disney land at either location

Andrew / July 27, 2006 10:14 PM

Spook, I think Spence was referring to Pullman's treatment of his employees, which led to the Pullman strike and riots. Not a pretty or magical chapter in our city's history, no matter how beautiful the neighborhood is.

unmake / July 27, 2006 10:47 PM

dunno if anyone's seen Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices, but towards the end they make the case that crime is rampant in Wal-Mart parking lots, because Wal-Mart doesn't care about shoppers once they've left the building, and only installs external security systems when employees are threatening to unionize (so-as to keep an eye on protesters)..

Regardless, I'd like to know the typical net gain for new job creation when these stores open, as they tend to adversely affect existing businesses, which costs other people their jobs.

Leelah / July 27, 2006 11:22 PM

Having taught for the last eight years in Pullman/Roseland, I can tell you that magical is an inappropriate description of the area.

The cute little green and red rowhouses were built specifically for the workers (only the white workers, mind you), and their landlord was none other than George Mortimer Pullman himself. In the depression (1800s), Pullman lowered his employees' wages and raised their rents. If they quit, they lost their homes.


And yay for the Big Box Ordinance!

Mason / July 27, 2006 11:33 PM

Wow, despite very divergent viewpoints on the issue this thread hasn't turned into the raging flamewar I was sure would occur. Kudos to you all!

bill / July 28, 2006 2:21 AM

I think shame on you, Mayor Daley. As a (mostly) supporter of a decent man who's heart is usually in its right place - the quality of life of your citizens - you came out on the wrong end of this one. Shame on you. (Or, most likely more appropriately, shame on your people, who seems to be all wrong about a lot of things lately....)

I'm sure that some of these retailers will indeed find ways to evade this law. The judicial system may find it unconstitutional. But the people have spoken. For once (its seems, lately) our elected officials have spoken on our behalf for quality of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Congrats, aldermen. Now - lets get to work on some other (more) important issues.

Vinny / July 28, 2006 8:35 AM

It is awesome! I love seeing white liberals drive jobs out of poor neighborhoods!

John / July 28, 2006 9:10 AM

I wish there was more discussion given as to what the total cost to total taxpayers in terms of lost revenue from wages and sales tax but more importantly how much will this cost us in litigation fees fighting something that should be done at a higher. I've heard upwards of $50 Million in lost sales tax revenue (ALREADY CHICAGO HAS ONE OF THE HIGHEST SALES TAX RATES IN THE COUNTRY).
Plus Let's say the litigation spent to fight a possible unconstitiional law (say $20 million) You're talking about a hefty price tag.

Mikey / July 28, 2006 9:11 AM

It is awesome! I love seeing white liberals drive jobs out of poor neighborhoods!

Shenanigans, I call!! Fiscal conservatives have always and shamelessly pushed their capitalisitic agenda under the guise that they were genuinely looking out for the best interests of the working man. It has consistently been the conservatives and the industrialists throughout U.S. history who have opposed the 40-hour work week, the 8-work day, the organization of unions, etc. And what has been the end result? Better conditions for workers, and oh, whaddya know? Despite the doomsday proclamations, the economy continued and continues to grow...

I think it is only too fitting that this ordinance passed in the city that arguably launched the international labor movement with the Haymarket Riot...

Amy / July 28, 2006 9:12 AM

re: Schulter. He's a Daley lackey. He better get his booty in gear after his neighborhoods have been calling for his head for the last 10 years.

I just hate that we have to watch him like a hawk. Dude wants everything condo, keeps on trying to push 'major' retail into the square and has rejected the last 3 ideas for a dog park in the 'hood. Not to mention has a towing fetish for his block. You leave your car on Bell just south of Montrose (that's where he lives folks) for more than 3 days - you're towed.

I like my 'hood and I want to keep it diverse. If I wanted to live in Lincoln Park - I would move there. I want to live in the Square dammit.

K / July 28, 2006 9:17 AM

While ALL employers should have to provide medical coverage and employers like Wal-Mart can certainly afford higher wages, I don't understand the belief that minimum wage should be a "living wage". Aren't minimum wage jobs supposed to be the crap employment you have in high school or college while you work your way to better higher paying jobs you can actually raise a family on. Why should we have the expectation to support a family by flipping hamburgers at McDonalds?

Vinnt / July 28, 2006 9:32 AM

Well, call all the shenanigans you like, but this thing already seems to have killed the Wilson Yard and Morgan Park projects. That's what, 500 jobs?

500 jobs that the ordinance's most enthusiastic supporters would never lower themselves to working at.

mike / July 28, 2006 9:48 AM

Wilson Yard Target was dead in the water before any of this. The writing was on the wall when the movie theatre fell through. And I say, GOOD! There's already a new Target 2 miles away on Peterson (on the old K-Mart site) which can actually handle the droves of Elstonesque traffic that would have gridlocked Montrose and Broadway, which is a much more walkable area than Peterson. Shiller will finally be voted out in the next election, now that the Lakeview liberals and gays have become disillusioned with her.

Then, hopefully, Wilson Yard will be sold to a developer at the market rate and a smart, mixed-use project will go into that spot (with affordable housing) instead of a dead wall along Broadway and a high-rise low-income rental tower.

I'm sick of people saying this ordinance killed the Target at Wilson Yard, which was an awful idea to begin with. Wilson Yard has the potential to offer the community much more than crappy low-paying jobs and cheap shower curtains.

Thad / July 28, 2006 9:49 AM

K: You say employers should provide health care. I agree in theory, but in a more practical sense, what do you think about having health-care not tied to employment, but rather something you have, and whose costs are somehow tax deductable? I think that is the system we eventually will move toward, especially given the high rate of job turnover.

Ann-Marie / July 28, 2006 10:00 AM

Peter sez: Well then why aren't the mom and pop stores that pay only minimum wage and don't provide health care drawing any ire? Are they paying a living wage?

I would love to hear some responses to this argument/comment.

Avril2080 / July 28, 2006 10:03 AM


I'm in favor of benefits that aren't tied to an employer. Especially if it's tax deductable! I'd be looking at a $6000 tax break!

But Congress couldn't give a rat's ass about helping the average citizen get health insurance AND a tax break.

Lincoln Square resident / July 28, 2006 10:03 AM

Re: Schulter. Amy, where was the location that was proposed to place a dog Park?

K / July 28, 2006 10:35 AM

Hey Thad - Basically, everyone should have health care - there's no better way to keep people poor or in crappy jobs than to not have guaranteed health care. How you do that though...I don't know. I believe Massachusettes is trying to set up a plan where most employers have to either provide health insurance or pay into a fund that helps subsidise insurance for residents to buy on their own. Seems like a good start. I like the idea of insurance being tax deductible but I don't know if it would take care of most people who are uninsured. If you can't afford insurance on your own you may not be making enough to pay much in taxes. Another thing to consider, when your employer pays for your insurance it's cheaper because you're speading out all the risk. The sick and the healthy all pay the same premiums. Individuals buying plans can get screwed especially if they're not in perfect health. This could be a whole thread on its own. Hint hint.

Insane profits? / July 28, 2006 10:38 AM

Target and Walmart may make large profits in aggregate but they have exceedingly small profit margins (Wal-Mart is about 2%). Being forced to pay higher wages may be enough to make stores in marginal areas unprofitable.

spook / July 28, 2006 11:18 AM

ahhhhh I got the point, Andrew/specnce, my bad....

and John, don't blame the "big box" law with regards to the city spending our tax dollars on litigation, blame , blame Darth Daley. He spends our money on litigation like there is no tomorrow. Heck you say this might cost of 20 million dollars? Heck Daley spent 20 million dollars trying to keep the John Burge Torture report from being released. And we can;t leave things to a higher power, i.e the federal government when its clear that in many ways, they no longer represent the working class and the power and it seems like the courts have alreday agreed with "states rights" on this

spook / July 28, 2006 11:20 AM

opps I mean working class and "poor"

mike / July 28, 2006 11:20 AM

I know one proposed dog park was Winnemac Bark. One of my friends worked countless hours on it. Got tons of signatures. Schulter initially was totally on their side. Then when a vocal minority of NIMBY dog-haters started screaming, Schulter blew them off. Opening a dog run in Chicago is a monumental task as it is. Something very similar happened with Ald. Mary Ann Smith.

I don't have a dog and people that treat their dogs like kids and all socialize kinda give me the willies, but I will say this: I love dog people. When I'm walking home late at night when the hooligans are out, I love seeing those dog walkers. They make neighborhoods safer.

Amy / July 28, 2006 11:22 AM

Dog Parks - Wells & Winnemac were the big places. Potentially Horner as well.

The Wells dog people just started getting tickets - Winnemac was killed b/c it was too close to schools and parents were concerned that the dogs would attack the children.

Because responsible dog owners (who usually take their dogs to a park) would bring attack dogs. I don't get it. I think he got some more condos around there though.

jojo / July 28, 2006 11:38 AM

insane profits? of course! wal*mart's "exceedingly small profit margin" is why it does so well - it squezes out competition with scale. 2% profit (or 3.5% gross, according to thier annual report) on 312.4 billion net sales is, what i would call, insane. that there are five waltons each worth in excess of 16 billion - more proof of insanity.

i'm not sure why someone would want to defend wal*mart's business practices. wal*mart seems to discrimnate by race and gender (so say the courts, and thousands of ex-employees) - not good in my book. they are so vehemently anti-union that when a shop organizes they call in the goon squad, and if organizing is successful, wal*mart closes the store! studies have shown that when wal*mart enters a market, for every two jobs created three are lost.

wal*mart as good for a tax base? i don't think so, (according to their annual report) has an effective tax rate of 33.4% in 2006, 34.7 in 2005, 36.1 in 2004 - see a pattern? the annual report states: "We establish reserves when, despite our belief that our tax return positions are fully supportable, we believe that certain positions may be successfully challenged." - no, suprise, of course, they don't want to pay taxes - why would they?

as far as "mom and pop" shops paying below the 10/3 proposed - they (the owners, who are also probably workers) ain't rolling in 16bn AND they are likely keeping their pittance in the community. for more on exploitation of the worker, see this">">this story

Peter / July 28, 2006 11:56 AM then this issue is not about a "living wage" and is really about targeting corporations that generate large revenues.

insane profits? / July 28, 2006 12:03 PM

Jojo - that was my point. Corporation wide they make a great deal of money, but that is spread across many stores.
If they only make a 2% (or 3.5% as it may be) profit margin, what effect will increasing wages by 25-50% have?

I don't care to defend their business practices. I'm just pointing out that all the rhetoric I've heard on this site over the past couple of days is overblown. Yes, they certainly could pay more to workers in Chicago. But if they have to pay so much more that the store is no longer profitable, why would they do that? Why would they open a location that they know will produce little, if any profit?

esskaycee / July 28, 2006 12:48 PM

Not to hijack the big-box ordinance thread ...

Maybe I was too lenient on Schulter with my earlier comment. Diversity-destroying condos, parking tickets, and dog-park-obstruction are not my favorite things.

It's funny, I live on the very western edge of Lincoln Square by the river, in the little sliver of the 40th ward that dips down, so my alderman is O'Connor, not Schulter. And we have a dog park in River Park. Not a big one, not particularly even a good one, but a dog park nonetheless.

esskaycee / July 28, 2006 12:48 PM

Not to hijack the big-box ordinance thread ...

Maybe I was too lenient on Schulter with my earlier comment. Diversity-destroying condos, parking tickets, and dog-park-obstruction are not my favorite things.

It's funny, I live on the very western edge of Lincoln Square by the river, in the little sliver of the 40th ward that dips down, so my alderman is O'Connor, not Schulter. And we have a dog park in River Park. Not a big one, not particularly even a good one, but a dog run nonetheless.

em elle esse / July 28, 2006 12:48 PM

"These companies could spend a lot less on labor by expanding operations into Mexico, India and China. I'm sure the citizens of theses countries would be happy to spend money at these stores. (Even if they're employed by them.)"

im no supporter of walmart, etc., but i have to say that this isn't necessarily true. in other countries, walmarts dont always succeed for such reasons as transportation. wish i paid a little more attention to the article which talked about it, but i do remember reading about this about a year ago.

em elle esse / July 28, 2006 12:48 PM

"These companies could spend a lot less on labor by expanding operations into Mexico, India and China. I'm sure the citizens of theses countries would be happy to spend money at these stores. (Even if they're employed by them.)"

im no supporter of walmart, etc., but i have to say that this isn't necessarily true. in other countries, walmarts dont always succeed for such reasons as transportation. wish i paid a little more attention to the article which talked about it, but i do remember reading about this about a year ago.

Mikey / July 28, 2006 12:48 PM

And still I have yet to hear any opponents of the 'living wage' defend the obscene compensation packages that corporate CEOs (including Wal-Mart's) are pulling in...

em elle esse / July 28, 2006 12:48 PM

"These companies could spend a lot less on labor by expanding operations into Mexico, India and China. I'm sure the citizens of theses countries would be happy to spend money at these stores. (Even if they're employed by them.)"

im no supporter of walmart, etc., but i have to say that this isn't necessarily true. in other countries, walmarts dont always succeed for such reasons as transportation. wish i paid a little more attention to the article which talked about it, but i do remember reading about this about a year ago.

Mikey / July 28, 2006 12:48 PM

And still I have yet to hear any opponents of the 'living wage' defend the obscene compensation packages that corporate CEOs (including Wal-Mart's) are pulling in...

Grant / July 28, 2006 1:07 PM

RE: Target and Walmart may make large profits in aggregate but they have exceedingly small profit margins (Wal-Mart is about 2%). Being forced to pay higher wages may be enough to make stores in marginal areas unprofitable.

Couldn't agree more with the above post. A higher "minimum wage" on the surface sounds like a great idea. More money and benefits for the working class. Unfortunately, the implementation of this law will increase costs for the targets and wal-marts of chicago, limiting their investment in new stores. While they can afford it, the reality of the situation is that they exist to make money, whether you like it or not. None of this means anything if the jobs don't exist.

Is it better to have people employed at a lower wage, or not employed at all?

Bob / July 28, 2006 1:13 PM

I think the Big Box Ordinance is good, although ripe for courts overturning it (strange, I have yet to hear the right go on about "activist judges" when it comes to "making laws" that favor big buisness)

Anyhow, I think we should also get ahead of this problem by changing the zoning - such as putting restrictions on Commercial and Buisness projects to limit them to about 75,000 sqft, eliminate giant parking lots (especially in front of the building) and enforcing street level storefronts/glazing. Also keeping these enforcements in place, even within Planned Developments. This is a constitutional way to not just target the most odious offenders of workers standards of living, but their impact on the neighborhood they invade as well.

Warmonger / July 28, 2006 1:15 PM

For the empirical data-oriented out there, here are a couple of interesting reports on Florida's recent experience with state wide and regional (Miami-Dade) increases in the minimum wage for certain workers. and
Moral of the story? The parade of horribles just does not happen. Florida's experiences may be a useful comparison, because it's economy is all about services, particularly retail, and its workforce is woefully undereducated and unskilled or semi-skilled - analogous to the folks that the big boxes plan on hiring here, one would think.

Warmonger / July 28, 2006 1:17 PM

My apologies - "its" economy ...

bob / July 28, 2006 1:22 PM

Since when do people think that paying someone what they're worth is a bad buisness? Why not vote to lower the minimum wage since it just makes good cheaper, which is better for everyone. No, wait, I know - lets stop paying workers all together - then everything will be even that much cheaper - they'll almost be giving it away! While we're at it, why don't we allow companies to rent us the machines that we use to do our work - after all, they do own them, it's only fair. Why pay for all that safety equipment and regulations, think about how much cheaper our stuff could be - sure, people might get they're arm torn off once in a while, but not if they're good workers, slackers get what's comin' to them I say!

Man, I think if we impliment all of these great benifits for america, I think we can get a coke at Wal-Mart down to about 25 cents again!

e_five / July 28, 2006 1:29 PM

Why do some people suggest it's government intrusion to regulate minimum salaries for employees, and yet many of the same people also state the need for a constitutional amendment to regulate who you can marry and laws to force women to carry pregnancies to term?

Please explain the logic. Thanks.

Hypocrisy is fun! / July 28, 2006 1:50 PM

e-five: For the same reason that there are people who think it is a government intrusion to regulate marriages and abortions and yet also think that there is a need to regular minimum salaries for employees....

vinny / July 28, 2006 1:55 PM

>No, wait, I know - lets stop paying workers all together -

I suspect people wouldn't work for free. They would probably value their time more than that and...wait for it, decide for themselves if they are being offered a good deal or not.

Marilyn / July 28, 2006 2:16 PM


Bob / July 28, 2006 2:18 PM

Not if they're hungry enough - then they'll work for crumbs. And if I had my way, that's what I'd literally pay people with - crumbs! Are you hungry? Well then you can loaf around, or you can have these tasty crumbs here after eight hours of backbreaking work. Mmm, tasty crumbs!

Crumbs are freedom! Money is Slavery! Two legs better!

w / July 28, 2006 2:29 PM


It wouldn't matter if there's an economist in the house. There are liberal and conservative economists that will never agree with each other on what these types of ordinances will do.

If you read this thread carefully, and think about it, all this is is a values argument - what or who is more valuable, business so it can help people, or people so it can help business?

I tend, even when it's detrminental to business, to say "people, so they can help business". Because no matter what anyone says, making a millionaire a slightly less rich millionaire is never going to disincentivize business. Ever. Human nature and greed won't allow it.

anon / July 28, 2006 2:52 PM

One of my friends likes to say, "even France has rich people."

vinny / July 28, 2006 2:55 PM

It isnít two different sets of morality, like the people good vs. business good straw man.

Only the wage fixers make a moral case.

Wage fixers approach this as a moral question: ďhow much ought people be paid.Ē Businesses who want low wages are bad and we need to force them to be good. (They take as a given that people who want high wages are intrinsically good, except CEOs. They are bad.) Pretty soon, someone compares free marketers to cannibals ala Swift.

The free marketers hold that this isnít a moral question. Whether or not Wal-Mart/Target/Costco is evil isnít relevant. They respond to incentives and can make their own decisions. Their employees respond to incentives and can make their own decisions. We argue that fixing wages creates disincentives to hiring people, hurting the interests of labor and depriving the community of both the jobs and the services those jobs perform. Pretty soon someone brings up rent control as an example of how price fixing has unintended results.

mike / July 28, 2006 3:14 PM

Wal-Mart makes umimaginative and lazy politicians looking for short term solutions foam at the mouth. In the long run, it is proven that Wal-Mart is bad for communities and bad for America. CEO salaries in general have gotten way out of hand and no one we elect cares because everything is driven by dollars. Earlier I said it's time to cry and I meant it. We're cheering our elected officials for this when what we should be doing is voting them all out of office and requiring the new ones to (a) take public transpo, (b) send their kids to public school and (c) enroll themselves in $1,000-deductible 80/20 HMOs. Then I'll bet you'd see some change. When ten bucks an hour and/or a big box in an impoverished neighborhood is a success, I guess I'm still sad that we can't seem to find a better way of investing in people.

bob / July 28, 2006 6:58 PM


This isn't even close to a free market and its not like the republicans are trying to make it more free. They want to shed all of the responsibilty off of their big rich donors / buddies / themselves and onto the rest of us, but that ain't the same thing as freedom. After all, if it were a free market, we'd all be using Linux right now.

I also find it strange that when republicans try to impose what their sectarian view of morality, everyone who opposes their viewpoint is an evil commie god-hating bastard, but when anyone attempts to inject a little basic morality into the way buisness is done in this country that is beyond the pale.

Wage is a moral question in this country because we americans associate value to work ethic. Work ethic is judged in a capitalistic society by income. Think about it, every marginalized ethnic group in america shares a common sterotype - lazy. If you seek every opportunity to devalue a person's pay, you are seeking every opportunity to devalue that person. That's the morality you seem to claim not to notice but can't get away from.

your mother / July 28, 2006 9:45 PM

Since it's pretty standard retail practice, I'd expect the higher wages to come out of the same labor budget. ie. 2 workers doing the job of 3.

I think it's goofy to call the BBO a triumph for the common man. The narrow focus of the ordinance simply stirs the pot but changes little. Seven/eight years from now, most of us will be shrugging our shoulders over the effect of this, but a bunch of aldermen are still going to be gloating about their big F-U to Wal-Mart.

Congratulations to them.


Fred / July 29, 2006 11:20 AM

Why aren't we doing this to the gas companies? Their profits are obscene.

Ann-Marie / July 30, 2006 10:56 AM

So, it seems we are rounding the corner on this one...what are all you guys doing for health insurance?

Alex -S- / August 1, 2006 12:46 PM

$10 an hour to stand and scan stuff, with virtually no thought involved? And benefits too!!

Really makes me wonder where the motivation for me to keep in my current job is :) i mean - take a couple a hundred pay cut, lose all the stress.... Hmmmm....

Ken S / August 30, 2006 7:05 AM

I wonder if Joe Moore sees any connection between the passage of this insane and discriminatory Big Box ordinance and the imminent closing of one of the city's oldest big boxes: the historic Louis Sullivan designed State and Madison Carson's. Nah, what connection;-)

Greg / January 28, 2007 3:12 PM

If it's the right thing to do to raise the minimum wage (as vinny and e-five suggest), then why stop at "Big Box" retailers? Why not force all businesses to pay their workers more? Furthermore, why stop at $7.50 / hour? You can't even live on that. Let's really try to make business do what they're supposed to do...provide me with everything that I deserve. We need $20 / hour because that is the right thing to do. $7.50 / hour ain't gonna help me!

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