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City Council Fri Apr 16 2010

Pastors Add Pressure for More Wal-Mart Stores

Well it seems that the proposed Chatham Wal-Mart was talked up in this article from the Chicago Defender:

The fight to get another Walmart built in the city has been intensified by a coalition of pastors and community activists who said Ald. Ed Burke (14th) has a "noose" around the neck of the South Side Chicago by holding back the proposed development of store on West 83rd Street.

Rev. Larry Roberts and about 200 pastors, who collectively represent about 100,000 congregants, have taken their message to Burke several times to no avail and now urge Mayor Richard M. Daley to flex his muscle to "make it happen."

Roberts said it's time for Burke to move the Walmart issue out of the City Council finance committee - which he chairs - so the Arkansas-based retail giant can proceed with building the store in Ald. Howard Brookins' 21st Ward, and eventually in other areas on the South Side, particularly in the Englewood and Pullman communities.

"Burke and Daley see what's in front of them, but their non-reaction is the downfall of the economical advancement of the South Side. Our areas are dormant and Burke has a noose around the necks of the South Side residents," Roberts, pastor of Trinity All Nations Ministries, told the Defender.

Since whether or not any future Wal-Marts must be considered in front of the full City Council, we're going to hear a lot about the fact that Wal-Mart doesn't pay their employees a "fair living wage" (however that's determined). So in this story, this is of note:

Walmart opened its first Chicago store in 2006 on the West Side on West North Avenue. The store created more than 400 jobs and pays an hourly wage of $11.30 per hour. The retailer hoped to build more until the proposed "big box" ordinance a year later halted its efforts.

The labor-backed ordinance required all businesses with more than $1 billion in annual sales and stores with more than 90,000-square-feet to pay a minimum wage of at least $11 per hour, $13 per hour with benefits.

Well that's about 30 cents more than what the new living wage ordinance requires, although sure this article says nothing about benefits. I could still question why a living wage ordinance is necessary if the only Wal-Mart in this city is already paying over $11/hr.

Here's another potential vote for future Wal-Marts in the city:

Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) whose ward includes the Englewood location [63rd & Halsted Streets], said while he understands the living wage argument, his constituents want the possibility of employment Walmart offers.

"The jobs are needed now. The residents want Walmart to come to the South Side," Cochran said, whose ward is a few miles north of Brookins'.

Also Ald. Beale who seems to be working hard on a Wal-Mart in the 9th Ward's Pullman community has expressed support for a Chatham Wal-Mart in Brookins 21st Ward. Although to be sure, it does seem as if Beale may get his before Brookins.

Other than the need for jobs and economic development another argument in favor of more city Wal-Marts is sales tax revenue. How much money are we missing while city residents on the South Side are choosing spend their money at Wal-Mart in Evergreen Park right across the city limits at 95th & Western? Are we missing out while we're arguing over whether or not this very large and important retailer offers their employees a "fair" wage or benefits?

Here are some other articles worth reading, but they probably aren't saying anything different than what you've read here over the part couple of days:

New Wal-Mart gets OK by Chicago Plan Commission - Tribune

Wal-Mart clears Plan Commission in quest to add Chicago store - Crain's

VIDEO Beale: Wal-Mart Brings in Jobs, Businesses - FOX Chicago

This link may have nothing to do with the Wal-Mart issue in the city, however, it's something to consider if this issue is about jobs.

Illinois unemployment spikes above the trend - Capitol Fax

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Dennis Fritz / April 16, 2010 3:16 PM

If you looked at a Chicago ward map back when the city council voted on the big box living wage ordinance, you'd see something quite striking. Almost all the "no" votes came from aldermen representing poor, majority-black wards (Bernie Stone's 50th ward was a notable expcetion). What does this mean? It means that people in those wards are so desperate for any kind of development, they'll green-light Wal-Mart regardless of the costs to the rest of the city.

And there would be costs--big costs. Wal-Mart doesn't think in terms of wards. It doesn't even in terms of large cities. Wal-Mart thinks regionally. The trouble with allowing another Wal-Mart into the area is that it wouldn't be the last. Wal-Mart's strategy is wring concessions from cities desperate for development, supersaturate the surrounding area with its stores, and effectively wipe out competitors. A recent study of the impact of the West Side Wal-Mart found that the store's presence had resulted in a net loss of jobs in the surrounding neighbhorhoods. This is typical. However many "jobs" Wal-Mart creates, it inevitably destroys jobs as it undersells competitors and drives them out of business.

Had the big box ordinance passed, Chicago would have become the largest city to ever have enacted such a measure. Chicago could have served as a springboard for a renewed national campaign for a living wage. Unfortunately, Daley was far too parochialist, far too business-oriented to see that. In his mind, all the ordinace would do is siphon off retail into surrounding suburbs. In the short term, perhaps it could have. But the benfits of a successful living wage campaign would be far greater.

Marcie Hill / September 14, 2010 2:18 AM

I personally don't Wal-Mart is the answer to the South Side's unemployment woes.

I don't have a solution, but I know that's not it.

I read a story in Crain's Chicago that Mayor Daley built his "global city" that did not include not one South Side community without a Wal-Mart. So, why can't the same thing be done now?

Why aren't businesses being developed in the community to create jobs to help put people to work?

This is madness and everyone is feeding into it!

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