Thursday, July 29, 2010

Third Wal-Mart sails through City Council

Another Wal-Mart is on its way to Chicago, with the City Council today approving a store for the Chatham neighborhood.

Aldermen voted 45-4 without discussion to approve the store at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue. That comes on the heels of the council's unanimous vote last month to allow a Wal-Mart to be built in the far Southeast Side Pullman neighborhood. Prior to that, no Wal-Marts had opened in the city since 2006.

The Chatham Wal-Mart sailed through the council relatively easily compared to the Pullman proposal, which was marked by a protracted battle between the retail giant and pro-union aldermen who wanted wage guarantees for employees at Chicago stores.

Several aldermen said the Pullman fight paved the way for approval in Chatham. Wal-Mart has said it hopes to open dozens of stores in Chicago, though no specific sites for future stores have been identified, according to company officials.

Some aldermen critical of Wal-Mart have urged the city to slow down in approving the stores because the company has been reluctant to publicly commit to paying at least $8.75 per hour at its Chicago stores. That wage standard – 50 cents above minimum wage -- was a key concession by the retailer in securing a 50-0 vote from the City Council in favor of the Pullman project.

Ald. Emma Mitts, 37th, who represents Austin, where city's first Wal-Mart opened in 2006, responded to those concerns today by announcing the $8.75 an hour wage will become standard at the Austin store starting Sunday.

"But more to the point, it's important to remember that this is only a starting wage, and that the majority of the employees in that store make significantly more than that already," Mitts said in a news release.

Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo said that the Chatham store will open before the Pullman store because there's less construction work to do at the Chatham site. Pullman would open sometime in 2012, but Chatham by late next year, he said. Take a look at this WGN-TV report:

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