Wal-Mart Buying the Opposition

New Orleans         Wal-Mart continues to prove over and over again that it is the same ruthless, aggressive, take-no-prisoners company it has always been, it just puts a little more money out in the community than it once did and it pays lip service to some environmental issues when it suits the companies purpose to figure out a way to be more efficient.  There is no sign that the company is changing whatsoever, it is just paying the price of doing business in a modern world and realizing that it has to do better marketing and protect its brand.

If anyone needed more proof than the special “buy an environmentalist” days that the company recently showcased in Bentonville, all you need to do is read Tonya Maxwell’s chilling story the other day in the Chicago Tribune of a counter rally the company had some folks put together in their behalf to pressure the Chicago City Council to vote against the ACORN inspired big-box living wage ordinance. 

A rollicking Thursday night meeting that often felt akin to a Sunday morning Baptist church service drew 1,000 people with a message for City Hall: Let the big-box retailers bring jobs into Chicago’s cash-strapped neighborhoods.

“We need places where we can walk to so we can lift up our family and communities,” said Cheyenne Cochrane, 20, a Bronzeville resident. “We need places to work that are close to home.”

Cochrane, also a Howard University student, drew cheers at the Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, 4100 S. King Drive, where many crowd members donned white shirts with black letters that read “Don’t Box Us Out.”

The crowd objected to a proposed wage ordinance for big-box stores that is expected to come up for a vote during Wednesday’s City Council meeting. If enacted, the measure would require stores with at least 90,000 square feet and $1 billion in annual sales company-wide to pay workers a minimum of $9.25 an hour plus $1.50 an hour in benefits.

So, get this clearly now.   Wal-Mart — working with Mayor Richard Daley and what remains of his machinery — fronted this counter rally by getting some t-shirts made and some ministers to beat the drums and put a 1000 people in the seats to protest against a $9.25 per hour wage rate!  Nothing in the ordinance prohibits construction of any facility that qualifies, but the measure requires that there be wages and benefits.  Wal-Mart has been crying like stuck pig about this, even though they regularly — and incorrectly! — claim that their average wages are just below $9.00 per hour already and that their benefits are super.  The company has been stalking the Mayor’s office swearing that they want to open 20 stores, but “no way” if they have to pay a decent wage.  Something is wrong with this picture! 

But, this is all about pressure and politics, and certainly not about how people really feel in the community.  Trust me there is huge support for living wages in Chicago in every neighborhood.

This company has boundary issues though.  It’s not enough for them to dominate the grocery and retail markets, but they want to now buy up the remaining civic and political space when any organization or any one gets in their way.  No one questions whether they have the resources, but we have to teach them restraint — now!

And, we have to make sure Chicago alderman don’t get bought the way Wal-Mart is buying up everything else

July 23, 2006

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