City Council approves Chicago's 2nd Wal-Mart

June 30, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The first Wal-Mart store to be built in Chicago is located in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side.

This is only the beginning for Wal-Mart's ambitious plans to expand in the city of Chicago. While there are several Wal-Mart stores in the suburbs, Wednesday's City Council action paves the way for only the second Wal-Mart in the city.

The struggle to bring the big box store to Chicago has been about wages. But after Wal-Mart and the unions came to an agreement, aldermen voted for it, knowing a Wal-Mart can bring thousands of jobs to a neighborhood that desperately needs them.

The world's largest corporation, with its roots in the South, is moving to the South Side. Wal-Mart got the green light from the full City Council to build a store in the Pullman neighborhood, which sits in Alderman Anthony Beale's 9th Ward.

"Let me tell you, it is rough being in the middle between Wal-Mart and the unions," said Beale.

But that is what it took to make the deal happen. For the first time, Wal-Mart, a non-union company, sat down with labor to negotiate a higher wage for employees.

But as several aldermen pointed out, the $8.75 an hour is not a living wage-- Alderman Ed Smith says especially when Wal-Marts CEO makes $35 million a year.

"How in the world can a man who makes $35 million a year go to bed at night and sleep, and these people making meager dollars," said Smith.

Wal-Mart representatives listened in the back of City Council chambers as many alderman continued to blast the company for its low pay.

"The message I would say to folks who have concerns is, look at our success on the West Side, look at our continued success there that we hope to replicate across the city," said Steven Restivo, Wal-Mart spokesman.

The South Side Wal-Mart is the second in the city. The first is in the Austin neighborhood.

Despite the reluctance from many aldermen, who rely on union support, Wednesday's vote was unanimous.

"Who else is creating jobs? I don't see anybody else coming to our community saying, 'I'm going to he create 12,000 jobs to serve the community'," said Beale.

"As the young people say, it is what it is," said 33rd Ward Alderman Dick Mell.

While he voted for it, Mell criticized Wal-Mart for selling so many foreign-made products.

The Pullman neighborhood's Wal-Mart will be Chicago's first supercenter. The 145,000-square-foot store will sell groceries. It will anchor a development at 111th and the Bishop Ford.

With union support, Wednesday's vote will pave the way for more Chicago Wal-Marts.

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