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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pay us fairly


Slave labor no longer permitted

Chicago Orders ‘Big Box’ Stores to Raise Wage

By ERIK ECKHOLM
Published: July 27, 2006

After months of fevered lobbying and bitter debate, the Chicago City Council passed a ground-breaking ordinance yesterday requiring “big box” stores, like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, to pay a minimum wage of $10 an hour by 2010, along with at least $3 an hour worth of benefits.

The ordinance, imposing the requirement on stores that occupy more than 90,000 square feet and are part of companies grossing more than $1 billion annually, would be the first in the country to single out large retailers for wage rules.

A gallery packed with supporters of the bill broke into cheers as the measure passed, by a vote of 35 to 14, after four hours of intense speeches and debate.

“This is a great day for the working men and women of Chicago,” said Alderman Joseph A. Moore, the measure’s chief sponsor. Mr. Moore said he had had inquiries about the ordinance from officials in several other cities.

An Illinois retailers’ group said it would challenge the measure in court, and Wal-Mart’s response was swift and blunt.

“It’s sad — this puts politics ahead of working men and women,” John Simley, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said in a telephone interview. “It means that Chicago is closed to business.”

Wal-Mart will still open its nearly completed branch on Chicago’s West Side this September — the company’s first store in the city — but any future plans “will likely change,” Mr. Simley said.

In arguing that Wal-Mart and other companies can easily afford to meet the new standards, proponents of the measure pointed to Costco, which says it already pays at least $10 an hour plus benefits to starting workers around the country.

In existing stores in the Chicago area, Wal-Mart pays entry-level wages of about $7.25 an hour but its average pay is $11 an hour, a company spokesman told The Chicago Tribune. The company has not revealed details of its benefits.

With this ordinance, Chicago has opened a contentious front in the growing national movement, led by labor and poverty groups, to raise the incomes of bottom-rung workers through local minimum wage and “living wage” legislation. Some economists say such measures will only stifle development and deprive consumers of access to cheap goods, but many poverty experts say that local efforts elsewhere to raise wages have not choked off growth and that the expanding, low-paying retail sector can be safely pressed to raise pay.

“We’re very confident that retailers want and need to be in Chicago, and the question for the city is what kinds of jobs they will bring,” said Annette Bernhardt of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School, which helped to draft the Chicago bill and has done economic studies of its likely impact.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association condemned the measure as likely to hamper job creation and a form of illegal discrimination, and said it would challenge it in court.

The measure was opposed by Mayor Richard M. Daley, who said it could impede growth and tax revenues. He did not say if he would veto the ordinance, but he would have to persuade two aldermen to switch their votes to avoid an override.


Walmart bought up a bunch of ministers and sold them on the job creation bullshit. Now, people are wondering how you live in Chicago on $7.25 an hour, because you can't.

Walmart is being targeted because it is a shitty corporate citizen.It treats its workers poorly. Walmart hasn't come to New York because the unions made it clear they would run a unionization drive at any store they built.

When people do case studies about Walmart in the future, it's inability to adapt to the demands of urban America will be it's downfall.

posted by Steve @ 12:18:00 AM

12:18:00 AM

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