Daly Getting a Whipping on Wal-Mart Wages

New Orleans        All Friday in between meetings in Southern California I tried to access a specific article in the Chicago Sun-Times.   My computer crashed once as I tried to retrieve and, frankly, this is just not what a blackberry is best at doing.  Madeline Talbott, one of ACORN’s senior organizers and the brilliant architect of our rise to power in Chicago, had sent me an email which was sooooo ecstatic about this article, compared to her normally measured and sober analysis that I knew it had to be virtually beyond compare!  Either we had just won the recent campaign that Chicago ACORN had been leading to force an adjustment to the definition of living wages in Chicago with an ordinance that would force retailers to pay a living wage (Wal-Mart had predictably been going gonzo with threats of the end of the world as it is known today if such an ordinance passed) in their establishments or something equally wonderful had come to pass. 

Finally sitting on the plane pulling out of John Wayne Airport in Orange County, I was able to toggle back and forth enough on the blackberry to pull up the piece and read it, and then I could see why Madeline was over the moon.  This was a “back room” kind of piece on a visceral and almost personal whipping that we and our allies were giving to Mayor Daly on this issue.  None of the fine hands behind the impending victory were revealed — this was a classic of political writing — but everyone in the know would know exactly what was being done. 

Essentially, the article interviewed aldermen who were openly dismissive of the Mayor and his last minute shenanigans to stop the ordinance from passage and help Wal-Mart.  In Chicago nothing is ever over until it’s over, but Madeline was right to savor the moment while it was breaking our way.  This could be sweet!

Check it out!

Aldermen won’t give in to Daley on big-box vote

June 30, 2006
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
Facing an increasingly rambunctious City Council, Mayor Daley has started buttonholing aldermen to talk them out of establishing wage and benefit standards for big-box retailers.

But there’s a problem. The mayor’s personal lobbying campaign isn’t working.
Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd) said he listened politely when Daley railed about the exodus of Chicago sales tax dollars generated by city residents shopping at the Evergreen Park Wal-Mart. He heard the mayor out when Daley complained that organized labor didn’t say a word about those suburban Wal-Marts and chose Chicago as their big-box battleground.
But if the mayor’s goal was to peel Zalewski off the big-box ordinance, it didn’t work.

‘He’s going to look real weak’

“Just because the mayor was upset about it — let’s say he was adamant about it — it doesn’t change my mind,” the Southwest Side alderman said.
“I believe in the big-box ordinance. There’s a lot of union support for it [among] residents of my ward. They have made that very clear to me in a lot of different ways — through e-mails, phone calls and letters.”
Another alderman, who asked to remain anonymous, characterized Daley’s jawboning as “too little, too late.”

“The unions have lined up solid commitments. They did their homework. It’s become a very emotional issue now. If anybody changes sides, it’s going to show weakness,” the alderman said.

“Rich is a day late and a dollar short on this. That might work if the numbers were close. But there are more than 30 votes for this thing. Those people signed on to it. I don’t see very many signing off. If he was really trying to stop the issue, he should have gotten involved from the beginning. He chose not to do that. . . . He let it get through committee. Now he gets into it late, and if he loses, he’s going to look weaker. He’s going to look real weak.”
Ordinance targets Wal-Mart pay

Another alderman said Daley warned that Wal-Mart would “never come to Chicago” if wages and benefits are mandated and that the retailing giant would “ring the city” with suburban stores.

But the argument fell on deaf ears, in part because the Hired Truck, city hiring and minority contracting scandals have weakened the mayor politically.
“In the past, aldermen were afraid that, if they failed to toe the line, [the Hispanic Democratic Organization] and other political organizations out there might flood their wards with political workers to campaign against them. That’s no longer the case,” the alderman said.

Still another alderman was more blunt: “Why should we even listen to him? His pearl-handled revolver is empty. He’s got no bullets left.”
Vote a victory for labor

Last week, the City Council’s Finance Committee voted 15-6 to make Chicago the nation’s first major city to mandate wage and benefit standards for Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers. The vote was a big victory for organized labor and the latest in a string of legislative defeats for Daley.
When three aldermen used a parliamentary maneuver to defer a final vote at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, that gave the mayor more time to lobby.
Earlier this week, proponents agreed to soften the blow by giving businesses four years to comply.

The phase-in calls for giant retailers to pay $9.25 an hour and $1.50 in benefits on July 1, 2007; $9.50 and $2 a year later; $ 9.75 and $2.50 on July 1, 2009, and $10-an-hour and $3 in benefits on July 1, 2010. After that, the “living wage” would be raised annually to match the rate of inflation.

fspielman@suntimes.com

July 2,  2006

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