Wal-Mart organizes rally for 2nd store

City sends Wal-Mart issue to finance committee
July 29, 2009 4:50:13 PM PDT
Despite efforts by Wal-Mart and several community organizations to pressure the city into opening a second store, the City Council took a pass on the issue Wednesday.The Wal-Mart in Chicago's Austin neighborhood opened in 2006, and supporters said the store has helped residents in the economically depressed community. Now the company wants to bring a store to the South Side community of Chatham.

Wal-Mart paid for buses to bring 200 people from Chatham to the Chicago City Hall for Wednesday's demonstration.

"Our community needs and deserves these jobs," said Rev. Alan Ragland, Third Baptist Church.

The company had hoped the rally would pressure Mayor Richard M. Daley and aldermen into opening up the second store- and speeding up the process. However, the Chicago City Council decided to send the issue on to the finance committee. That committee can sit on it, debate it, or vote on it. But nothing is expected to happen the issue is reconsidered in October.

"They're entitled to their opinions but the rules are the rules... and we're following the rules," said Ald. Edward Burke, Finance Committee Chairman.

In the last 24 hours Wal-Mart has launched an offensive for the Super Center. Besides the rally, Wal-Mart commissioned a phone poll of 1.2 million Chicagoans that, the company says, shows 74-percent support a new store, 15-percent do not and about 10-percent are unsure.

"It's time for us to go over there and do what we were elected to do, represent the citizens of the City of Chicago, not a special interest group," said Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st Ward.

Critics of Wal-Mart said the survey questions were biased to promote the company.

The five-year dispute over a second Wal-Mart centers on the company's stance against unions. Most city council members said the retailer is not welcome until it allows workers the chance to organize.

"Union leaders and people who have been fighting me regarding bringing in Wal-Mart, 500 jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue to this city, have a job," said Ald. Brookins.

"You gotta first get a job before you unionize. Give 'em a job! If we bring 'em in then maybe we can work something out later," said Ald. Emma Mitts, 37th Ward.

Mitts represents the West Side ward that currently has a Wal-Mart. She says in the two years since it opened in Austin, four other national retailers have opened stores, generating jobs where there were none.

"In the first two years of business, that store generated more than $10 million in tax revenues and more than 400 have a job, and more than 60-percent of them full-time," said John Bisio, Wal-Mart Public Affairs.

The Chatham Wal-Mart at 83rd and Stewart would include a supermarket that would compete with unionized Jewel-Osco and Dominick's.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who stopped by City Hall to say goodbye to retiring Alderman William Banks, agrees with the pro-union council majority.

"You have to pay wages and have good benefits," said Quinn.

"We do need jobs, but jobs at any cost, I don't think so," said Cedric Wright, opponent to Wal-Mart.

Mayor Daley maintains that Chicago needs Wal-Mart jobs as much as any other city does.

"Why is it alright to build the suburbs but not in the city? I've always asked that question and no one's answered it," said Mayor Daley.


Load Comments