Walmart could open new stores in Chicago

June 21, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Demonstrators marched outside City Hall Monday calling on the city to approve the Walmart deal. They come from neighborhoods on Chicago's South and West sides they say desperately need jobs. And they believe Walmart could provide those jobs, if the City Council would approve the retailer's plans to build several dozen stores throughout the city in the next five years. That would create as many as 10,000 jobs and $500 million in sales and property tax.

"No other retailer has put those things on the table. None of them have made a commitment to help feed the people who are hungry and don't have access, nobody else. So how do we keep them out?" said Alderman Anthony Beale, 9th Ward.

One of the stores would be in Alderman Beale's far South Side 9th ward. But union leaders and a number of aldermen remain opposed to Walmart coming to Chicago because of low wages and poor benefits, as well as the company's track record with organized labor. Chicago Federation of Labor leaders say Walmart is trying to bulldoze the bill through the City Council without raising wages to the level union leaders have asked for.

"Walmart knows what it will take to get us to at least say it is something that can move forward with but they weren't willing to go there," said Jorge Ramirez, Chicago Federation of Labor.

Some neighborhood leaders, however, say they need the jobs and are willing to compromise on wages.

"A job is a job, regardless of how much they pay, as long as a person saves. As long as you be able to support your family and do what you need to do to make ends meet," said demonstrator Joshua Alston.

"We need our elected leaders to step up. We need them to say this is good for Chicago, that this is good for business," said Omar Duque, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Both sides are predicting success when the bill goes before the city zoning committee Thursday. If it is approved, it could go before the full City Council at the end of the month.

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