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2004-03-27
Chicago, IL. Bad Union Track Record Stalls Wal-Mart on West Side Chicago

As Wal-Mart moves into urban locations, it has run into dense opposition to its stores. On the West side of Chicago, for example, Wal-Mart's plans for the windy city have almost blown away. Chicago aldermen have pledged allegiance to unions, and shown no great like for the Arkansas retailer. This week the City Council's Zoning Committe put the Wal-Mart plan for a 150,000 s.f. store on 11 acres on Grand Avenue on ice. This would be Wal-Mart's first foray into urban Chicago. In addition to the West side plan, Wal-Mart is also quietly part of a South side shopping center as well. According to the Chicago Tribune, some Alderman opposed the plan over the issue of non-union labor. "It involves the whole city of Chicago and quality of living for virtually everybody," one Alderman said. A non-union Home Depot store was approved in the Northwest Side ward. "(Wal-Mart) may not know about it," an Alderman told the paper. "Chicago has always been a labor town. They apparently chose [the proposal for the West Side] as a battlefield." Wal-Mart opponents on the West Side released studies alleging that the new store would hurt other area businesses. The project's foes also called on Wal-Mart to permit unions to organize workers, something the retail giant vehemently opposes. Another Alderman said he was offended by Wal-Mart's anti-union stance and strong financial support for Republican candidates. Only one of Chicago's 50 aldermen is Republican. "This is a Democratic city and it's a union city," he said. Wal-Mart gave a $1,000 campaign contribution to the West Side Democratic ward committeeman, on Dec. 5. She came out in favor of the company's proposal. Wal-Mart claims that three-fourths of its workers at about 50 Chicago-area stores are full-time (that means 32 hours) earning an average of $10.77 an hour. Wal-Mart officials said that shoppers living within "one or two miles" of the proposed West Side store have spent $24 million a year at nearby Wal-Mart stores outside of Chicago. "Is the attitude of the company toward organized labor and living wage outweighed by the possibility that some jobs can be created, that some economic activity can be created in a depressed area?" an Alderman said. "It's a very interesting balancing act."

What you can do: A recent report from U.S. Congressman George Miller (D-CA) cited Wal-Mart for is "aggressive anti-union activity." Wal-Mart maintains a manager's hotline to call so that company specialists can respond rapidly and head off any attempt by employees to organize. Congressman Miller's report concludes: "Wal-Mart's success has meant downward pressure on wages and benefits, rampant violations of basic workers' rights, and threats to the standard of living in communities across the country."










 
 
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