Edgar Ruffin loves taking pictures. So, working as a Walmart photo specialist was a natural fit, but any job at the new Far South Side Walmart would have been fine with Ruffin. The 51-year-old Roseland resident says he needs the work to survive.
"I've been homeless. I've lived in my vehicle, but God has blessed me. I appreciate this job," said Edgar Ruffin, Walmart employee.
So does 30-year-old Tia Smith.
"Before I got this job, I was unemployed, I was looking for work," said Smith.
The new store in the Pullman neighborhood employs over 400 people and they are jobs badly needed in an area that has high unemployment and crime. After being turned down by many big box retailers, Walmart decided it wanted to build here, but it wasn't easy. For years, union opposition prevented Walmart from moving in. Labor leaders stopped the fight after Walmart agreed to pay their employees more than minimum wage.
"To my union friends we knew this would be a big fight. This was 100 percent union built," said Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th Ward.
While 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale pushed hard to bring Walmart here, his fight was far from over when he learned that the CTA was not fulfilling its promise to bring bus service to Walmart. The closest stop is 6 blocks away. Beale says more than half of the employees take public transportation to work.
"I brought this to their attention months ago, this wasn't just something that spurred up the last couple days," said Ald. Beale.
After Beale publicly complained, the CTA started putting bus signs in on Tuesday.
"CTA will provide bus service tomorrow morning," said Ald. Beale.
Ald. Beale also said that the new bus service will not only serve Walmart, but other retailers who have committed to build in the area as well.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was planned just before the store was scheduled to open at 7 a.m.