Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wal-Mart's Southside Chicago Store: Rank & File Blacks Break With Organized Labor

Chicago aldermen approve city’s second Walmart store

Labor's Rebuttal: What Else You Should Know About Wal-Mart

Story #1
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.

Story #2

"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.


FreeMan said...

As long as there is a US vs Them angle on our collective progress we will run into the problems of full alignment with anyone who is against them. In this case the poverty and lack of options has gotten so big that the people broke ranks. The state of Chicago South/West has made people actually happy to make minimum wage.

I am very sure the contracts for building the Wal Marts (higher paying jobs) are not given to the Black Majority. I am sure there is a kickback to the Alderman in some form. I am sure Walmart is looking at the South/West as a potential monopoly of all services from supermarkets, pharmacy and just general walmart items.

We have a lot of Bloodsuckers to the poor in charge of the majority of our folk. Chicago is no different from any other city in the US but they have been holding on to power to the detriment of their base. So when the final drop of blood of the turnip showed up the people came out and said we'll take anything just don't get in there way.

Chicago is an extreme case of loyalty to a ideology instead of loyalty to progress and those who build things. It's a generational thing but they are still holding onto the power and blackmailing angles they had for the past 40 years. They will die soon enough....

Constructive Feedback said...


It seems to me that what "Broke the Ranks" was the harsh realities that what the "Ranks" were offering was not working.

You operate off of the notion that "the Rank" is some sort of native consciousness for the Southside and for Black people.

I don't.

I see them as a perspective of Blackness that is Leftwing. They sell the notion that these leftist policies, if implemented will BENEFIT the Black community.

As an observer who is not leftist I demand that the BLACK COMMUNITY implement a process for evaluation of such theories and force that they PROVE IT!!!

There is no native IDEOLOGY for Black Consciousness. The "Real Black Positions" are those which can be PROVEN to advance our interests not just INTEND TO.

Today the City of Chicago does not have an economic system on the field that can FUND THE PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATION FOR THEIR SCHOOLS WHICH ARE 87% BLACK/HISPANIC. If a city can't provide these basic services to its people what good is it?

People are looking at the portraits on the wall with favorable people sitting in the seats of power. It is time that their preference be VALIDATED by looking on the streets.

Near minimum wages as PRINTED ON A CHECK in your pocket is better than having an individual who believes that he deserves LIVING WAGES yet there is no CONSUMER OF LABOR who agrees and thus no paycheck comes his way.

FreeMan said...

You operate off of the notion that "the Rank" is some sort of native consciousness for the Southside and for Black people. - Nope I know I never said that....

I'm saying they are part of a older generation of Blacks who have attained power during the 60's. Their thoughts and plans are just as old as them and that's why it doesn't work as they failed to adapt.

I'm with you on a evaluation for effectiveness. I myself want our folk to move on beyond what just sounds good. As a result of this loyalty the new blood with new ideas haven't made the necessary changes. Even the so called new blood are from the same families as the old so they don't do anything but think about passing down public offices like it's their legacy.

Minimum wage is better than nothing I agree. And of course your main point of not receiving some kind of public assistance is heard over and over again (I get it). But, what I was trying to imply is the state of this area and the moral of these folks is so low that they are begging for minimum wage.

Constructive Feedback said...

Brother Freeman:

Check out this link from Ebony magazine, December 1972:

I see this as a mile marker in the ground.

Lerone Bennett Jr does a good job in documenting the struggle of the Black worker from Reconstruction through to the late 1960's.

We now stand, 40 years in the future with the benefit of noting how the acquisition of overwhelming POLITICAL power and population control over certain cities have worked (or not).

Whereas Bennett was saying that 12% unemployment was unacceptable then for Blacks - today we stand at 15.4%.

My ONLY agenda is to force my people to make sure that our efforts are in line with our PERMANENT INTERESTS, not what we FAVOR with POPULARITY.

We lose if someone doesn't stand up and ask questions about the results over the evidence of "happy Black people" after a political victory.