Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wal-Mart, South Side workers chafe under union agreement

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executives hand-delivered a strong anti-union message when they met with South Side construction workers to discuss building stores in Chicago's Chatham and Pullman neighborhoods.

About 70 people attending the meeting Tuesday evening lobbed heated questions about whether the nation's largest retailer would be able to use non-union labor and neighborhood workers to construct two Wal-Mart supercenters.

Wal-Mart has an agreement with the area's major construction union to build all new stores in Northern Illinois during the next three years with union labor.

But many neighborhood workers who attended the meeting said they are not union members and criticized the unions.

An executive for Wal-Mart, known for its opposition to organized labor, shared attendees' frustrations.

“We want everyone to be in play, but we can't do that here because of restrictions,” said Tony Malbranche, director of construction for the Arkansas-based retail giant. “We're trying to work this issue behind the scenes. It's going to take a lot more work to make sure people from the neighborhoods are involved.”
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