Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wal-Mart fight looms over living wage ordinance

OMG this is so 2006!!!
A Far South Side alderman’s drive to break the City Council stalemate that has prevented Wal-Mart from building as many as five Chicago super-centers is turning into Big Box, Round Two.

On the eve of a Chicago Plan Commission vote that will provide a crucial test of Wal-Mart’s strength, Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) on Wednesday introduced another living wage ordinance.

It would require Wal-Mart and other retailers with more than 50 employees that benefit “directly or indirectly” from city subsidies to pay a “living wage” of at least $11.03 an hour.

Three months ago, Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th) tried and failed to tie a proposed Chatham Wal-Mart to that same requirement. Now, Lyle is throwing a monkey-wrench by reviving the idea.

“We’re just gonna keep trying until we get it right,” Lyle said.

The Wal-Mart controversy has already given birth to the big-box minimum-wage ordinance blocked by Mayor Daley’s 2006 veto. That prompted labor to spend millions to elect a more union-friendly Council.
Ald. Lyle for her part doesn't expect a repeat of what happened back in 2006, and Daley won't say if he'll veto another Big Box ordinance. We have to say however that this won't merely affect the proposed Wal-Mart at Chatham Market, but the one in Pullman!
[Ald. Anthony] Beale’s response to Lyle was defiant. The 9th Ward alderman suggested that the living wage ordinance be applied retroactively to the Target that already exists in Lyle’s ward.

“Why not? Let’s look at it from a legal standpoint. Maybe there’s an opportunity to do that,” Beale said.

He added, “I don’t think any of the big retailers are gonna go for it — [not] even the Target that’s in her ward.”

The Plan Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on Pullman Park, a 180-acre project at 111th and the Bishop Ford Expy. that includes 850 homes, a hotel tower, community recreation center, park and senior apartments. It would be anchored by Chicago's first Wal-Mart super-center that sells groceries desperately needed in the heart of the "food desert."

Once again, Beale predicted that he has the votes on the Plan Commission and on the City Council floor.

“We’re close on bridging the gap between unions and Wal-Mart. We’re working on some things where everyone may be comfortable at a later date,” he said, refusing to reveal specifics of the negotiations.
Here's more from Clout St. at the Tribune:
Although Daley’s administration has the right to sanction new Wal-Marts in some areas, it has refrained from doing so. The mayor has said he wants a majority of aldermen to sign off on the stores. But unions say they do not pay enough, and aldermen haven’t approved new ones.

The new proposal, so far backed by Lyle and 17 of her colleagues, would require businesses with 50 or more employees that receive $250,000 or more in direct or indirect city financial assistance to pay wages of at least $11.03-an-hour.

"That is what we have calculated to be a reasonable wage for a person's labor, and we're saying if you get a city benefit -- if you get TIF funding, if you get land write downs -- if you get anything from the city to bring your development in, then your response should be to pay the residents of the city of Chicago a living wage," Lyle said.
The project would create nearly 4,000 jobs once it’s complete in 12 years, including nearly 700 at Wal-Mart, Beale said. Meanwhile, all of the construction jobs would be given to union members, he said.

The development also would include restaurants and 800 homes, he said. “We’re not just talking about Wal-Mart,” [Ald. Beale] added. “We’re talking about a large development.”

Even if the plan commission recommends approval of the Wal-Mart development, both the council's Zoning Committee and the council itself would have to sign off. And it's unclear whether aldermen want to run for re-election in February with the Wal-Mart issue as a major backdrop. In 2007, the unions helped several challengers defeat or mount tough campaigns against sitting aldermen.
You know on this issue, we haven't heard from Ald. Howard Brookins on this. Where is he???

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