New Chicago Wal-Marts spark wage debate

Marketplace Staff Jun 24, 2010
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New Chicago Wal-Marts spark wage debate

Marketplace Staff Jun 24, 2010
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Bill Radke: A crucial vote in Chicago’s City Council could lead to dozens of new Wal-Mart stores to be built in the city. The issue has become an old-fashioned showdown between the retailer, unions, and the city’s politicians. Chicago Public Radio’s Tony Arnold reports.


Tony Arnold: Wal-Mart wants to build dozens of stores in Chicago. But first, it needs City Council approval for one store to be located on the city’s far South Side, and that’s been a challenge.

For years, the City Council has delayed voting on that store, mostly because of the battle between unions and Wal-Mart over the issue of wages. This week, local officials said Wal-Mart will pay Chicago employees a starting wage of $8.75 an hour. Fifty cents more than the state minimum wage.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is on board with the plan. He says Wal-Mart’s been unfairly persecuted in the city.

Richard Daley: If it’s built in a suburb, there’s not one controversy. Not one controversy dealing with that development.

As a result of all the media attention, Wal-Mart says it plans to build markets in parts of the city where there are no grocery stores. Despite Wal-Mart’s promises, the unions aren’t backing down. They want the starting wage to be $11.03 an hour. Dennis Gannon is with the Chicago Federation of Labor:

Dennis Gannon: People need to know that the cost of living is different in urban areas versus rural areas. And if it doesn’t get addressed here in the City of Chicago, it won’t get addressed anywhere throughout the country.

The unions hold a lot of clout among many City Council members. Four years ago, the unions helped defeat many of the mayor’s allies in the City Council, because they weren’t on-board with the plan to keep Wal-Mart out.

In Chicago, I’m Tony Arnold for Marketplace.

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