Monday, June 21, 2010

Walmart reaches deal for 'dozens' of new Chicago stores

Greg Hinz:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and a group of Chicago aldermen late Monday announced a deal under which the discount retailer would open dozens of new stores in the city, contribute $20 million to local charities and pay workers a minimum of $8.75 an hour.

   The pact, announced by South Side Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and others, does not appear to have the support of organized labor, at least not now.

   But given what the deal would bring Chicago, union backing may not be needed.

   At a City Hall press conference, Hank Mullany, president of Walmart's northern U.S. vision outlined a goody-filled package that the retailer clearly hopes will win the backing of a majority of aldermen, who earlier had blocked much smaller expansion plans.
You know I do believe I got a press release in the e-mail from PR reps of Wal-Mart. I won't excerpt the whole thing but some of it is of note:
  • Open several dozen stores across the City of varying size and format. This will not only address Chicago’s double-digit commercial vacancy rate but, more importantly, provide customers with more convenient access to affordable groceries, especially those 600,000 residents living within Chicago’s three, self-identified food deserts;
  • Create approximately 10,000 associate positions and 2,000 unionized construction jobs, helping to offset the City’s 11.4-percent unemployment rate;
  • Generate more than $500 million in sales and property taxes, providing a much-needed revenue boost to a wide range of City and county services;
  • Pay competitive wages at all levels, for Walmart associates across Chicagoland;
  • Develop charitable partnerships in Chicago worth $20 million that work to eradicate hunger, curb youth violence and help all Chicago residents live better.
It approximated what was already seen in Greg Hinz' blog post. There's one more item to look at from Clout City, also from there note this Community Benefits Memo (PDF) from Wal-Mart regarding the future Pullman store.
Ninth Ward alderman Anthony Beale says it’s “very likely” his plan for a new Walmart in Pullman will come before the City Council's zoning committee this Thursday, and he says he’s optimistic he has the votes to advance it, partly because of a "community benefits agreement" that Walmart officials have put together to try to appease critics of the pay and benefits it offers workers.

But the agreement so far includes little beyond general promises Beale made to the Chicago Plan Commission when it approved the development in April.

Beale insists the company is strengthening its commitment to paying above-market wages. “This makes it more concrete,” Beale says. “It’s a legal document.”
It includes a lot of vague language, such as a pledge to “encourage” the site’s contractor to employ more minority-owned businesses than it has to legally. The agreement also states that Walmart will “recommend” that the general contractor work with unions to build the new store, and it says the big-box retailer “will work with local community groups and the mayor’s Office of Workforce Development to source candidates who are interested, qualified and eligible.”

Noticeably absent from the agreement is any mention of a “living wage” of $11.03, which some union-friendly aldermen have been demanding. The memo does include a “Wages & Benefits” section, but it only states that Walmart offers “competitive market salaries” and a “comprehensive benefits package” to its associates.
“This is a community benefits agreement,” Beale says. “This is not a union community benefits agreement.”

Beale says the Pullman agreement was compiled from similar documents that were created for the city's one existing Walmart, on the west side, and another proposed for Chatham. Beale says it also takes into account community feedback he received during 60 community meetings that were held to discuss the retailer's expansion into Pullman.

The odds of this one getting approved not only by the zoning committee of the city council but by the full city council seems to have always been better than Ald. Brookins attempt to build a Wal-Mart near 83rd & Stewart. Is it merely a matter of time or we'll see an even bigger fight for this store I wish I can say for certain!

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