Skip to comments.Big-box 'living wage' passed, Chicago
Posted on 07/26/2006 2:39:50 PM PDT by jaydubya2
Big-box retailers would be required to pay their Chicago employees a living wage at least $10 an hour and $3 in benefits by 2010 under a groundbreaking ordinance approved today that sets the stage for a court fight.
The 35 to 14 vote by a bitterly divided City Council is a victory for organized labor, a stunning defeat for Wal-Mart and the latest in a string of legislative embarrassments for Mayor Daley.
Chanting protesters on both sides of the contentious debate lined up early and jammed the Council chambers to witness a vote that could change the economic landscape of a city becoming more and more service-oriented every day.
A lobbying campaign waged behind the scenes for the last two years culminated in a more than three-hour debate that aired all of the old arguments and some new ones.
Chief sponsor Ald. Joe Moore (49th) likened the ordinance to President Franklin D. Roosevelts efforts 68 years ago to impose a 40-cent-an-hour minimum wage, outlaw child labor and mandate a 40-hour work week. Our job is not to safeguard the profit for the worlds wealthiest corporations. Our job is to look out for our constituents, he said.
Moore scoffed at the threat by Wal-Mart and Target to cancel their ambitious Chicago plans. There is a buck to be made. A lot of bucks. Theyve saturated the rural markets, he said.
Moores New Deal comparison did not sit well with his seatmate, Ald. Bernard Stone (50th).
Instead of wrapping himself in President Roosevelts cloak, he should be wearing a little cap with a feather. This is Sherwood Forest. My colleague is Robin Hood. What he wants to do is steal from the rich and give to the poor, he said.
Nowhere was the bitter division more evident than among African-American aldermen. Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd) said she resents outside forces manipulating our community, especially when it is unions that have not been fair to us, she said.
Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th) said he finds it amazing that his colleagues are willing to take the risk and hope that Wal-Mart and Target are bluffing. When it comes to the West Side, Lets gamble. Theyre willing to gamble with my side of town.
Ald. Ed Smith, 28th, chairman of the City Councils black caucus, took the opposite view. He presented charts that showed the average Wal-Mart employee is paid $7.70 an hour and $16,016 a year, while Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott is paid $16,826 an hour (figuring on a 40-hour week) and $34.9 million a year.
How can I tell Mrs. Jones I wont support an extra $2 an hour? he said.
Earlier this week, Daley refused to tip his hand for fear it would let aldermen off the hook.
First the City Council has to make this decision. Its called, `Profiles in Courage. Simple as that, he said Monday.
The mayor tried desperately albeit at the 11th hour to avert the veto dilemma he now faces.
He branded the ordinance as redlining, arguing that mandating wage and benefit standards would deprive impoverished African-American communities of the jobs, shopping alternatives and revenues they so desperately need.
Wal-Mart and Target underscored the mayors claim with threats to abandon their ambitious Chicago expansion plans.
Wal-Mart threatened to cancel plans to build as many as 20 new Chicago Wal-Marts over the next five years. Target put plans to build three South Side stores on hold and made thinly veiled threats to close existing Chicago stores.
But, in the end, none of that sabre-rattling mattered.
Aldermen had made their commitments to organized labor months ago. They were not about to renege and test labors threat to run candidates against sitting aldermen who dare to oppose the living wage just seven months before the election.
The ordinance that will make Chicago the first big city in the nation to mandate wage and benefit standards for retailing giants is a watered-down version of the original.
Last month, proponents made a series of concessions aimed at softening the blow to business.
Instead of raising wages and benefits in one fell swoop, they agreed to a four-year phase-in that calls for giant retailers to pay: $9.25-an-hour and $1.50 in benefits on July 1, 2007; $9.50 and $2 a year later; $ 9.75 and $2.50 on July 1, 2009 and the full $10-an-hour and $3 in benefits on July 1, 2010. After that, the living wage would be raised annually to match the rate of inflation.
And instead of applying those standards to newly built and existing stores with at least 75,000 square feet of space, the store size was raised to 90,000 square feet. Small vendors renting less than 50 percent of the space inside big-box stores were exempt from the standard.
The so-called living wage would apply to any employee who works more than 10 hours a week. The old version would have kicked in at five hours a week.
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association has vowed a court challenge to block the ordinance from taking effect.
The association has already commissioned a legal opinion that claims the ordinance would interfere with interstate commerce; violate the Equal Protection clauses of the state and federal constitutions by singling out large retailers and exceed the citys home rule powers because minimum wages are the exclusive purview of the Illinois General Assembly.
Complicating the mayors position is the fact that the law firm of Daley & George which once included Mayor Daley and still counts his brother, Michael, as a partner represented Wal-Mart on the West Side zoning change that paved the way for Wal-Marts entry into the Chicago market. The Austin store is scheduled to open in September.
Two years ago, a bitterly divided City Council handed Wal-Mart a split decision: zoning approval to build its first Chicago store in the West Sides Austin community and a one-vote defeat in Chatham.
The vote followed an acrimonious debate that saw organized labors City Councils allies throw the kitchen sink at Wal-Mart. They talked about a predatory pricing scheme that drives smaller competitors out of business and about a retailing behemoth that provides low-paying jobs with meager benefits and faces lawsuits for allegedly forcing hourly workers to work overtime without pay.
The failed effort to stop Wal-Mart gave birth to the big-box movement. Opponents claim that labor leaders real beef is their failure to unionize Wal-Mart.
The court just struck down the same law in Maryland.
I hope Wal-Mart gives them the finger and walks away.
Daley will kiss the union's backside to get re-elected. (He has to have the labor union support to be re-elected and he is a good liberal)) I predict no veto.
I hope Wal Mart closes its shops and lets Chicago rot.
Probably horrible theft problems there compared to red states.
Another idea is for walmart to agree and then refuse to hire any unions to build them.
The union stores in Chicago pay a starting salary of less than $10 an hour (before union dues), yet they want to hold Wal-mart to a high standard.
My whole feeling about this is that Chicago is entitled to cut its nose off to spite its face if it wants to. Actions have consequences--many of them unintended.
There are no WalMarts in Chicago. Now you know why.
I'm sick of people mischarachterizing Robin Hood all the time. The point that is so frequently missed, is that R.H. took back money robbed from the people, in the form of oppressive taxation, in the first place! In short, "the rich" weren't his targets, but rather the oppressive, corrupt government.
By 2010. Most companies can pack and move in 3.5 years.
I believe that the union's pay is directly attached to the minimum wage. If the minimum wage goes up $2.00, the union's wages also go up $2.00. No wonder that the union's want the wages raised.
Well, Chicago City Aldermen rarely make accurate statments ;)
Sooooo, if the CEO agreed to work for free, that wouldn't even result in a penny an hour raise for the typical worker, would it?
Keeping it safe for the "company stores" for those stuck on their Democrat masters' plantations.
Let's just pay a stock boy $34.9 million a year.That'll solve the problem!
Does not surprise me. The starting wage at or local Walmart is $9.35 an hour. At the union shops it is $7.50.
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