As we noted last week, Ald. Billy Ocasio (26th Ward) was the lone city council member to vote down Mayor Daley’s 2009 budget proposal on Wednesday, using his time on the floor to rail against Hizzoner for taking “many communities for granted.” Not to be outdone, Ald. ...
As we noted last week, Ald. Billy Ocasio (26th Ward) was the lone city council member to vote down Mayor Daley’s 2009 budget proposal on Wednesday, using his time on the floor to rail against Hizzoner for taking “many communities for granted.” Not to be outdone, Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. delivered a passionate address himself -- one having do with a familiar issue. The Reader’s Mick Dumke recounted the details:
“Out of all the retail stores, all of their profits are down except for Wal-Mart, whose third-quarter profits are up 10 percent,” Brookins said. He noted that Wal-Mart stores are thriving in suburbs that border on Chicago and cited studies estimating that tens of millions of dollars in spending and potential tax revenues were “leaking” out of the city. “Six hundred people could be employed right there in my community. Six hundred people!” he said. [...] “Had that Wal-Mart passed in our ward the city would have had an additional $21 million, by my estimate, by today’s date. Sixty-four million dollars would be spent with union tradesmen-plumbers, pipe-fitters, electricians, carpenters, right now, when the city of Chicago is experiencing a 29 percent decrease in commercial building starts.”
Despite Brookins’ wishes, the chances of Wal-Mart setting up shop in Chatham are slim. The retailer reportedly abandoned plans for the project in May and Daley, eager to garner support for the 2016 Summer Olympics, is wary of creating unnecessary beef with the city’s labor community.
Nonetheless, Brookins implored his fellow council members to come up with “that same creative idea” for Wal-Mart that led the city to reach a deal with the unions over layoffs in the 2009 budget. Of course, he failed to acknowledge that the labor community and a majority of alderman did, in fact, settle on a creative compromise in 2006: the big-box living wage ordinance. However, Brookins opposed the measure, fighting tooth-and-nail against it alongside Daley and the business community.
The arguments in favor of the ordinance -- which would have required big box retailers located within city limits to pay their employees a living wage -- were pretty simple. Although Wal-Mart is one of the most profitable companies in the world, and one that skims $8.5 million of the state’s income tax revenues, they certainly don’t value its workforce. Wal-Mart doesn’t allow its employees representation on the job, doesn’t pay them enough to support a family (a point Brookins himself conceded during the negotiations two years ago), and doesn’t provide adequate health care, thus forcing more workers onto the public rolls. Ronald E. Powell, president of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 881, raised these concerns not two weeks ago in a Tribune letter to the editor.
It’s easy to sympathize with Brookins. The residents of his ward deserve job opportunities. But those that are created should be worth the effort. Without implementing firm regulations, Wal-Mart will never offer that.