The more things change, the more they stay the same. Following news that Wal-Mart is launching a new push to open stores in Chicago, the Tribune offers another editorial clamoring for city officials to embrace the mega-retailer with open arms: The lone Wal-Mart ...
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Following news that Wal-Mart is launching a new push to open stores in Chicago, the Tribune offers another editorial clamoring for city officials to embrace the mega-retailer with open arms:
The lone Wal-Mart that managed to win city approval opened two and a half years ago near North and Cicero Avenues. It provides about 430 jobs and pays its hourly workers an average $11.25, [Wal-Mart’s Illinois director of public affairs and governmental relations John] Bisio said. As of September, it had collected and paid $10.4 million in sales taxes; half of that went to the city, Cook County and the RTA. Since the Wal-Mart opened, the neighborhood around it has gained a Menards, an Aldi, three new banks, a CVS pharmacy, a movie theater and about a dozen other retail stores.
If the aldermen don’t welcome Wal-Mart jobs now, they ought to be sent to the unemployment line.
We’ve seen this argument from the Tribune in the past, but it’s worth dissecting again. To begin with, Bisio’s math isn’t very instructive here. Using the average hourly income instead of median hourly income is misleading because there is a good deal of variation (PDF) in hourly wages by gender, race, and job title. In other words, a few well-compensated managers can skew the data. Indeed, if all hourly employees in Chicago are earning $11.25 an hour, why did the company fight so hard in 2006 to block an ordinance that mandated a lower living wage?
Many Wal-Mart employees aren’t considered full-time employees and thus aren’t offered benefits, either. While the editorial focuses on the potential sales tax revenue generated by a Wal-Mart, it neglects the drain on state funds these stores create by leaving workers on public assistance while they rack up profits.
Most importantly, the paper misrepresents the motivations of the aldermen, community groups, and labor unions who supported the original big box wage ordinance. Rather than pushing Wal-Mart away, they were trying to ensure that the company treats our city’s workforce with respect. We think food deserts are a huge problem. Same with rising unemployment, which we’ve covered extensively. But as Amisha Patel wrote in her Progress Illinois column last year, the idea that “any job is better than no job ... [is] a false choice -- one that only serves to keep those on the edges of social margins grateful for whatever those in power decide to hand out.” We agree, and find no reason why Wal-Mart can’t provide sustainable professional opportunities.