Labor's Rebuttal: What Else You Should Know About Wal-Mart
CHICAGO — The Chicago city council approved building the city’s second Walmart store on Wednesday, a victory that overcame labor opposition and promises jobs on the city’s struggling South Side.
“Who else is creating jobs?” asked Ald. Anthony Beale, imploring his colleagues to vote for the project, a supercenter that will sell groceries and could open in the first quarter of 2012.
The council’s unanimous vote — although some aldermen gave support grudgingly — also was an important win for the giant retailer that has said it hopes to build dozens of stores throughout Chicago.
Approval for the store came after labor leaders dropped their opposition when Wal-Mart Stores Inc. agreed to pay starting wages there of $8.75 an hour, coupled with raises of 40 cents to 60 cents an hour after the first year. Illinois’ minimum wage increases Thursday to $8.25 an hour.
"In terms of specific geographies, we're looking across the entire city, with a special focus on the South and West sides – especially in those self-identified food deserts," Restivo said.
The goal is to create about 10,000 Wal-Mart jobs within the city limits, Restivo said.
Under the agreement with organized labor, union workers will build all the new Wal-Mart stores.
Restivo added that Wal-Mart had received widespread messages of support and welcome from Chicagoans.
"I really think that yesterday, the mayor, Ald. (Anthony) Beale, and the entire City Council are to be commended for really representing the will of the people of the city of Chicago, because we have really just heard consistently – Chicago wants Wal-Mart," Restivo said.
But not everyone agrees with that sentiment. While support for Wal-Mart was unanimous in the City Council, skepticism and criticism are still echoing in some chambers.
The Thursday edition of the Chicago Reader is leading with a cover story titled, "What Else You Should Know about Wal-Mart." Its accompanying cover art shows the Chicago skyline as viewed from the top of the John Hancock Center, with a huge smiley face like the one formerly used in Wal-Mart ads hovering ominously from behind a building.
"It's not just the low wages or the near-scientific union busting. It's the preference for poverty, the business model built on turnover, the manipulative PR," writer Max Brooks opines at the start of the article. "Is this really the best way to bring jobs and food to the south and west sides?"
The feature article is composed of an interview with University of California at Santa Barbara labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein. The interview revolves largely around Wal-Mart's history of resisting employee attempts at unionization. It also addresses a public relations campaign that Lichtenstein describes as "astroturfing;" enlisting local groups to campaign for stores on Wal-Mart's behalf.
Lichtenstein also says in the Reader article that while Wal-Mart does offer wages that are competitive with union grocery stores, those other stores are likely to have lower turnover than Wal-Mart and thus, more long-term career opportunities.
The notion that "Wal-Mart is a union buster" miss the key question: "Does the Black community needs UNIONS or do we need JOBS"?
There are plenty of places in our communities that have a potentially large union support base. The only problems is that they lack the "consumers of labor" to make these potential union workers into WORKERS.
The point remains that the claims of "union busting" is a ruse.
The Rank & File From The Black Community Break From Organized Labor
Desperation causes people to do some strange things.
As such the sight of Black protesters demanding that the Chicago board of aldermen approve the new store location on the Southside was a rare sight to see.
The way I see it - After being a loyal constituency for so many years, going along with the flow with their union friendly political leaders - the "jobs desert" and "food desert" in the Southside forced those who see what is going on in their community to break with the standard line from their leaders.
I don't believe for one minute that this represents a permanent departure from the fateful path that they have been mislead down. I will take a transactional departure where the situation is considered on a case by case basis. The point remains, however, the masses of people have not yet made the transition where they prioritize the PRODUCTION that these leaders provide over the claimed PROTECTION that they provide.
If what they had been living in was "freedom" and "social justice" - they chose to bring Wal-Mart in so that they can be "exploited' because the EXPLOITED state is far less than the theory seen otherwise.
There is a need for our community to be more clear on our permanent interests and to create some distance between those who operate as inside confidence men, instead creating some distance so that the collective can understand their interests beyond their loyalties to these embedded operatives.