In a move that will affect up to 35 stores city-wide, including one Wal-Mart, the Chicago City Council has passed a labor-backed ordinance setting minimum wages for so-called “Big Box” stores. The 35-14 vote, more than enough to override a veto, sent it to Mayor Richard M. Daley (D), who lobbied against it.
Chicago’s ordinance is the bellwether in a nationwide campaign aimed at curbing
bad impacts of the so-called “Big Box” stores on local retailers, their workers, their wages and their communities, including sprawl and land-use issues.
Wal-Mart, as the biggest of the “big box store” companies, has been the top target. But other stores affected include Target and Home Depot.
Chicago’s ordinance, passed July 26, says retailers with over $1 billion in annual sales and stores of at least 90,000 square feet must pay workers at least $10 an hour and another $3 in fringe benefits by July 1, 2010. By contrast, Wal-Mart plans to open a store in a recov-ering neighborhood on the city’s far West Side in September, with wages as low as $7.25 an hour, $3.75 per hour below the average starting wage for other city retailers.
Wal-Mart had also planned to open another 20 stores in the Second City, but its Midwest vice president had said the ordinance might force it to cancel those plans. The ordinance would also affect 15 other stores, Targets and Home Depots, within Chicago.
The Chicago Federation of Labor, part of the community-group-led coalition lobbying for the ordinance--including door-to-door campaigning and rallies for the law--praised the council’s action. It also lauded community groups, notably ACORN, that led the drive, and the seven Change to Win unions, which joined the campaign.
“This is a victory for all the communities and working men and women in Chicago who deserve to earn a living wage and benefits in exchange for their hard work. It sets a national standard for making sure individuals earn a living wage with benefits in exchange for day’s work,” said Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon.
“At the heart of this ordinance is equality and fairness. Today’s vote sends a message that our elected officials and community members alike are not interested in the creation of low-paying jobs that fail to provide a living wage or adequate health care benefits for working families. The choice between no job and a low-paying job is a choice between bad and worse.
“Only when families can afford to make ends meet and afford quality health care will we see real improvement in communities. Corporations that can well afford to pay a living wage, should be held to a higher standard,” he said.
Mark Gruenberg writes for Press Associates, Inc., news service. Used by permission.