Veto Won't End Chicago's Living Wage Battle

As Chicago aldermen switch votes to back Mayor Daley's move to allow low wage jobs at big box stores, union officials vow to fight to require higher wages at these stores.

In Chicago, the failed ordinance would have required retail stores with at least 90,000 square feet run by companies with $1 billion or more in annual sales to pay $10 an hour and $3 an hour in fringe benefits by 2010. The battle drew national attention, led to a show of independence by council members, and the mayor's first veto in 17 years in office. Dennis Gannon, head of the more than 400,000-member Chicago Federation of Labor, says, "This issue is not going away. We are going to address it somehow. If it is in the City Council, fine. If it is in Springfield, fine. This battle isn't over because the mayor decided to veto something."

U.S. Congressman Danny Davis (D-Chicago) supports labor's and other community group's efforts to make Wal-Mart and other big box stores pay a livable wage: "I don't think Wal-Mart is going to run away from these big central city markets. People who work should get a livable wage at the end of the week so you have enough to pay your rent and send your kids to school."

Full Story: Big-box battle not over yet



Irvin Dawid's picture

"Democrats Vs. Wal-Mart"?

read what George Will had to say on this issue:
"Democrats Vs. Wal-Mart", Washington Post
Thursday, September 14, 2006; Page A21

"The big-hearted progressives on Chicago's City Council, evidently unconcerned that the city gets zero sales tax revenue from a half-billion dollars that Chicago residents spend in the 42 suburban Wal-Marts, have passed a bill that, by dictating wages and benefits, would keep Wal-Marts from locating in the city. Richard Daley, a bread-and-butter Democrat, used his first veto in 17 years as mayor to swat it away...."

This is a very interesting column - it deserves to be read to see the opposing viewpoint

Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA (not a Walmart shopper, but dependent on my neighborhood Walgreens stores (about 10,000 sq ft?).
However, I do see lots of my neighbors going there....

Driving To The Poorhouse

George Will's argument is that most Wal-Mart shoppers are poor or moderate income and need to save the money. But you must own a car to shop at most Wal-Marts.

It reminds me of a saying of Will Rogers (which I paraphrase from memory): "America is the first country in history where people drive to the poorhouse."

I save a lot more money by not owning a car than I would save by owning a car and using it to shop at Wal-Mart.

Cities designed so that you need a car are a tremendous economic burden to the poor - and Wal-Mart is part of that auto-dependent urban design.

Charles Siegel

Michael Lewyn's picture

a self-fulfilling prophecy

The only reason you "must own a car to shop at most Wal-Marts" is because Wal-Marts are located in automobile-dependent suburbs.

But if you let Wal-Marts in cities (or even suburbs with decent transit) people can shop at Wal-Marts without cars. There are plenty of Wal-Mart competitors in cities (e.g. Target, K-Mart). If those chains can function in cities so can Wal-Mart.

So to keep Wal-Mart out of cities on the ground that they require cars is to create a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you only have Wal-Marts in car-dependent locations, people without cars won't find them, but if you allow Wal-Marts in areas with decent transit service, people without cars will find their way to them.

Irvin Dawid's picture

Urban Wal-Marts

Lewyn's point is well-taken.
At the Palo Alto Transit Center, I often see patrons alighting buses from the Mtn. View Wal-Mart (Santa Clara County., CA) - can't miss all those Wal-Mart plastic bags....
The San Antonio Transit Center is located adjacent to the Wal-Mart, and the entrance to the store is actually more accessible by some of the bus stops from that transit center, along with all the bike hitches by the entrance, then the sprawling parking lot outside the store, which is not exclusively their parking as it is in a large shopping center with way too much parking.

As I said, I'm not a Wal-mart shopper...frankly, I don't even like going into the huge store, but I know others depend on it.

Mtn View, I believe, had design guidelines for the store, so that's why it's quite pedestrian friendly notwithstanding being in a shopping center as opposed to a CBD.

Rather than finding ways to oppose Big Box stores, I think cities should follow Mtn View's path and attempt to use design to mitigate some of the inherent disadvantages of them.

However, that is actually what Chicago tried to do with their regulation, but I don't think it was done in an equitable manner - hopefully the second go-around will be done with input from the "big box community" :-)

Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

Pedestrian-Oriented Wal-Marts

Wal-Marts can be pedestrian-oriented and designed to fit into their context. Eg, see the proposal for a Wal-Mart in downtown St. Albans, Vermont, at I would not oppose this sort of Wal-Mart. (But note that Wal-Mart wants to build a Sprawl-Mart outside of St. Albans, not to build this in downtown.)

But just putting a conventional Wal-Mart within city limits does not reduce auto-dependency. I don't know what Wal-Mart has proposed in Chicago, but I know that there are proposals for other big-box stores in New York that would be on former industrial land and would be just about as auto-dependent as suburban big-box stores.

Building Wal-Marts in cities with this sort of auto-oriented design would increase auto-dependency overall. Some city people would take the long, inconvenient bus rides to get to the new Wal-Marts. But more convenient neighborhood shopping would also disappear. As a result, there would be more reason to buy a car, to get to Wal-Mart with less inconvenience.

Charles Siegel

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