Wal-Mart comes to Chicago

As part of my ongoing Wal-Mart coverage, the City Council voted yesterday on proposals for two Wal-Mart stores to be opened within the city limits. The Chicago Tribune‘s Dan Mihalopoulos — who seems to have the Wal-Mart beat — reports on a split decision: Rejecting concerns that allowing Wal-Mart to open shop in Chicago would ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast.

As part of my ongoing Wal-Mart coverage, the City Council voted yesterday on proposals for two Wal-Mart stores to be opened within the city limits. The Chicago Tribune's Dan Mihalopoulos -- who seems to have the Wal-Mart beat -- reports on a split decision:

As part of my ongoing Wal-Mart coverage, the City Council voted yesterday on proposals for two Wal-Mart stores to be opened within the city limits. The Chicago Tribune‘s Dan Mihalopoulos — who seems to have the Wal-Mart beat — reports on a split decision:

Rejecting concerns that allowing Wal-Mart to open shop in Chicago would depress wages and destroy local businesses, the City Council voted Wednesday to permit the retail giant’s first store in Chicago on the West Side. Aldermen denied the company a total victory, as plans for a second store on the South Side came up one vote short of approval. But the plan for that store, in the 21st Ward, could be brought up for another council vote as soon as June 23…. Since council members first raised objections to Wal-Mart’s plans in March, Chicago has become the most recent high-profile battleground in the national fight over the company’s push to open stores in urban areas. Unions and community groups mobilized opposition in recent weeks, highlighting Wal-Mart’s distaste for organized labor and deriding the company’s wages and benefits. As in other parts of the country, those complaints clashed with the desire to bring new stores and their bargain-priced goods to minority neighborhoods. Ald. Emma Mitts said her economically depressed 37th Ward is in dire need of a new store and the 300 jobs that the West Side Wal-Mart promises. “This is a free country, and we look for low prices,” she said. In the end, though, the council’s split on the two plans may have been determined by black aldermen who wanted to teach a harsh lesson to a freshman member accused of lacking proper respect for more senior council members. All but two African-American aldermen at the meeting supported Mitts and her quest for a Wal-Mart in the Austin neighborhood. Yet, some of those same aldermen voted against the plan on the South Side for the Chatham section of the 21st Ward, represented by Ald. Howard Brookins. South Side aldermen who split their votes said they sided with Mitts because she aggressively sought their backing, pointedly noting that Brookins ignored them and took their support for granted–until his proposal became the subject of wide debate. “[Brookins] didn’t do his homework,” said Ald. William Beavers (7th), who supported both Wal-Mart proposals. Aldermen voted 32-15 to approve the zoning change required for a Wal-Mart store at Grand and Kilpatrick Avenues on the West Side. Brookins apologized for his lapse of aldermanic etiquette, but his contrition was not enough to win support for a 50-acre shopping center that also would include an Office Depot and a Lowe’s home-improvement store. Aldermen voted 25-21, one vote short of approval, on the plan for the site of a former steel plant at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue…. Wednesday’s outcome allowed both sides in the dispute to claim some success. “Any time we get to better serve our customers, it’s a huge deal,” Wal-Mart spokesman John Bisio said. “A half a loaf is better than none,” said Ron Powell, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881.

Actually, it reads to me as if the union was just lucky it was up against an inexperienced alderman, and got a temporary victory at best.

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner

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