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Wal-Mart Controversy Continues; No Smiles on Union Aisles

By Margaret Lyons in News on May 24, 2004 2:37PM

Wal-Mart; Photo: walmart.comThe Chicago vs. Wal-Mart saga continues this week. The City Council will vote Wednesday whether to grant zoning approval for two proposed Wal-Mart locations, and local unions are adamantly opposing such an approval. Wal-Mart has taken to the streets to preach the mega-corporation gospel in neighborhood meetings on the West and South Sides and are gathering with what seems to be a lot of local support. According to a company spokesman quoted in the Tribune, Wal-Mart has already made “unprecedented” commitments to community leaders about the West Side location:

…area churches and other groups would have a say about which banks handle daily deposits for the store and which contractors would help build the store at Kilpatrick and Grand Avenues…. The company has also said at least 75 percent of the 300 jobs created at the store will go to people from the community, including the possibility of hiring ex-convicts; it will pay "competitive wages" that start at $7 an hour; and it will consult local leaders on where corporate donations would be most useful.

Sally Field in Norma RaeThe United Food and Commercial Workers union, which has 1.3 million members in the U.S. and Canada, 40,000 of whom work in Chicago, has vehemently opposed Wal-Mart’s move into urban Chicago. The UFCW says that Wal-Mart’s lower wages and worse benefits will affect wages and benefits at other grocery retailers. Even though 1.2 million people in America work for the discount giant, no Wal-Marts in North America have unionized labor.