Democrats & Liberals Archives

Citizen Wal Mart

I confess, I do not read either of the two Chicago dailies (I usually spend a buck for the NYTimes), and neither (very proudly) do I watch any of the local news programs.

So, after cheering Wal-Mart’s defeat in Inglewood, CA, I was stunned to find the next battleground was right here in my own backyard! Wal-Mart wants to build two SuperCenters here – on the city’s predominantly Black, South and West Sides.

After an embarrassingly arrogant and expensive defeat in California, the retail giant has retooled its plan of attack. They have reached out to local community and business leaders, local activists, church leaders, politicians and the editorial boards of the major newspapers. However, they’ve met with strong opposition from union leaders working in concert with influential Alderman in the Chicago City Council.

At the heart of the debate are the well-documented employment practices of Wal-Mart: nearly 60% of its workforce has no health benefits and the average employee’s annual salary is $18,000. Wal-Mart has also become Enemy #1 for organized unions, as can be seen here.

As could be expected, both staunch Republican Editorial boards of the two major Chicago dailies fell in line with the ‘economic rebirth’ schtke following an in-person schmoose-fest with Wal-Mart corporate heavies. However, take it from this life-long resident, these editors know what’s good for the moneyed North Shore suburb of Highland Park, but shouldn’t dare to say they know what’s good for the Englewood community on the South Side, or the Lawndale community on the West Side.

Subsequently, the feelings of the Investor’s Class can be summed up this way, by Micheal Van Winkle at The Chicago Reporter:

Chicago is witnessing some sort of vendetta against Wal-Mart taking place on the south and west sides. Labor unions are working through Aldermen to block a re-zoning that would allow Wal-Mart's first stores to be built in Chicago. The rhetoric in the debate is very reactionary and alarmist and backed with no real economic common sense.

The flip side of these arguments is that if Wal-Mart doesn't push the prices of its goods down, then their will be no money left in the pockets of consumers to reinvest in their communities. Not to mention the jobs.

Which brought this response from your humble scribe:

Sorry Micheal,

But, the West and South Side are not desolate plain-state communities desperate for the goods that Wal-Mart offers.

In many cases, the same low cost goods are offered by other retailers (Sears, Target, Best Buy, Jewel, etc) that are in reasonable distance as a proposed Wal-Mart.

What you are missing is the number of neighborhood, family-owned retail operations that will be put out of business - a reality of every Wal-Mart built to date. Those are jobs and businesses loss that Wal-Mart will not make up.

The other retailers I mentioned cannot compete with Wal-Mart's pricing, but they can offer jobs with better wages and benefits.

Now, write another story about this situation, but this time from the vantage of a working poor resident, and not a Wal-Mart shareholder.

Residents of these inner-city communities were not clamoring for a Wal-Mart to be built. Instead, the retail giant’s business model called for them to build on the annual sales of $500 million from profitable suburban Chicago stores. Building these SuperCenters would be akin to building a huge Dunkin Donuts in a neighborhood of 5 or more mom and pop coffeehouses. Hizzonor, Mayor Rich Daley, ever mindful of the need to expand his tax base, wondered aloud about all the big fuss. Seeing that two years ago, he pushed to drop a huge Home Depot in the middle of an already crowded Near North neighborhood (and over the objections of it’s residents), there is no doubt where he stands on this issue.

Is the scrutiny of Wal-Mart’s employment practices, the outsourcing of American jobs and the poor quality of those created in Bush’s recovery, impacting America in an unexpected way?

(For more information on the Wal-Mart controversy, I recommend

Posted by Bert M. Caradine at April 22, 2004 3:32 AM