[Hpn] Big retailers battling minimum-wage increase

William Charles Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Tue, 22 Aug 2006 07:55:59 -0400


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http://www.workers.org/2006/us/minimum-wage-0824/

Big retailers battling minimum-wage increase
By Lou Paulsen=20
Chicago=20


Published Aug 21, 2006=20
Despite fierce opposition from the retail industry and Chicago's =
Democratic mayor, the Chicago City Council on July 26 voted to require =
large chain stores to pay higher wages and health benefits. The "Big =
Box" ordinance covers over 40 stores in big chains such as Target, Home =
Depot, and Wal-Mart (which will open its first Chicago store soon), with =
an estimated total of 10,000 workers, or about one of every eight retail =
sales workers in the city.

The bill passed by a 35-14 vote, which would be one vote more than =
enough to sustain it if Mayor Richard Daley decides to veto it. But now, =
the big chains have opened a campaign of economic reprisal against =
Chicago's poorest communities. Both Target and Lowe's have suspended =
plans to build stores in the Black community. The purpose is to pressure =
aldermen to change sides, so that when Daley does veto the ordinance, =
his veto will be sustained.

If that doesn't work, the Illinois Retail Merchants' Association has =
threatened to challenge the ordinance in the state courts.

Under the new law, beginning in July 2007, stores of 90,000 square feet =
or more owned by companies with $1 billion or more in annual sales must =
pay workers (including part-time workers) at least $9.25 an hour plus =
$1.25 an hour in benefits, increasing to $10 plus $3 in benefits in =
2010. Many of these large chains now provide no health benefits at all, =
especially for part-time work, and pay as little as $6.50 per hour.

Similar laws have been passed in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, N.M.; in San =
Francisco; and in Washington, DC.

The bill was initiated in 2004 by the Grassroots Collaborative, an =
alliance of ten community and labor organizations, and the Living Wage =
Coalition, which swelled to over thirty members in support of the bill. =
It included community organizations such as Chicago ACORN and the =
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, churches, the Chicago Federation of =
Labor, and unions, including the United Food and Commercial Workers, the =
Service Employees International Union, and UNITE/HERE. Volunteers staged =
rallies and vigils, knocked on doors, and kept up the pressure on =
members of the council up until the day of the vote.

Chains try to intimidate Chicago's poor

The chains warned that they would abandon Chicago if the bill were =
passed, and recruited ministers and community groups in the poorest and =
most oppressed areas of the city to campaign against it. Attempting to =
mobilize the poor and unemployed against the bill, they vilified =
proponents as "robbing people of jobs" at a press conference with Mayor =
Daley two days before the vote.

According to a report in the Chicago Defender, organizers for The =
Woodlawn Organization, which opposed the ordinance, packed a media event =
against the bill by distributing a leaflet at the Ickes Homes housing =
project reading, "Do you want a job at Wal-Mart?" and telling people to =
bring their r=E9sum=E9s.

Council member Emma Mitts, whose poor and Black community on the West =
Side is the site of Chicago's first Wal-Mart, told the media, "You have =
to make them come in and give a wage before you raise it to a living =
wage." Of course, this argument for a "sub-living wage" is an argument =
against any minimum wage at all; it pits all the workers and unemployed =
against each other in a contest of who is most desperate and will work =
for the least.

However, an economic analysis of the bill, available on the AFL-CIO =
website, paints a different picture. While the bill is estimated to =
provide $68.4 million per year in additional wages and benefits, this is =
only about two percent of the estimated $3.2 billion a year in sales =
that the workers at those stores generate.=20

The chains have now threatened to punish the neighborhoods whose =
aldermen and women voted for the bill, and locate stores only where they =
voted against the wage increase, or else suspend new construction =
entirely. In noisy media announcements, Lowe's announced that it would =
not sign leases on property on the South and Southwest side; Target =
claimed it would suspend plans for stores at 119th and Marshfield and in =
Uptown; and Wal-Mart said it was putting plans for 20 Chicago stores "on =
hold."

Supporters of the ordinance have denounced these threats, which have =
been orchestrated with City Hall. On Aug. 7, the Living Wage Coalition =
issued a report blasting Target's action, pointing out that it has taken =
$10 million in "tax incentive" subsidies for its Chicago stores and now =
isn't even willing to pay a living wage.

The problems of the poor and unemployed in Chicago are very real, =
particularly in the Black and Latin@ communities. As the struggle to =
defend the ordinance continues, it is also high time to deliver wages, =
benefits, and jobs programs for the hundreds of thousands of workers and =
unemployed people in Chicago who are not covered by this bill.

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<H1>&nbsp;</H1>
<H1><A=20
href=3D"http://www.workers.org/2006/us/minimum-wage-0824/">http://www.wor=
kers.org/2006/us/minimum-wage-0824/</A></H1>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<H1>Big retailers battling minimum-wage =
increase</H1><!---deck---><!---byline--->
<DIV class=3Dbyline>By Lou Paulsen <BR>Chicago </DIV>
<DIV class=3Dbyline><BR>&nbsp;</DIV><!---page text--->
<DIV class=3Dpublished>Published Aug 21, 2006 </DIV><!--begin =
page--><!--begin paragraph-->
<P>Despite fierce opposition from the retail industry and Chicago=92s =
Democratic=20
mayor, the Chicago City Council on July 26 voted to require large chain =
stores=20
to pay higher wages and health benefits. The =93Big Box=94 ordinance =
covers over 40=20
stores in big chains such as Target, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart (which =
will open=20
its first Chicago store soon), with an estimated total of 10,000 =
workers, or=20
about one of every eight retail sales workers in the city.</P><!--end =
paragraph--><!--begin paragraph-->
<P>The bill passed by a 35-14 vote, which would be one vote more than =
enough to=20
sustain it if Mayor Richard Daley decides to veto it. But now, the big =
chains=20
have opened a campaign of economic reprisal against Chicago=92s poorest=20
communities. Both Target and Lowe=92s have suspended plans to build =
stores in the=20
Black community. The purpose is to pressure aldermen to change sides, so =
that=20
when Daley does veto the ordinance, his veto will be =
sustained.</P><!--end paragraph--><!--begin paragraph-->
<P>If that doesn=92t work, the Illinois Retail Merchants=92 Association =
has=20
threatened to challenge the ordinance in the state courts.</P><!--end =
paragraph--><!--begin paragraph-->
<P>Under the new law, beginning in July 2007, stores of 90,000 square =
feet or=20
more owned by companies with $1 billion or more in annual sales must pay =
workers=20
(including part-time workers) at least $9.25 an hour plus $1.25 an hour =
in=20
benefits, increasing to $10 plus $3 in benefits in 2010. Many of these =
large=20
chains now provide no health benefits at all, especially for part-time =
work, and=20
pay as little as $6.50 per hour.</P><!--end paragraph--><!--begin =
paragraph-->
<P>Similar laws have been passed in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, N.M.; in =
San=20
Francisco; and in Washington, DC.</P><!--end paragraph--><!--begin =
paragraph-->
<P>The bill was initiated in 2004 by the Grassroots Collaborative, an =
alliance=20
of ten community and labor organizations, and the Living Wage Coalition, =
which=20
swelled to over thirty members in support of the bill. It included =
community=20
organizations such as Chicago ACORN and the Chicago Coalition for the =
Homeless,=20
churches, the Chicago Federation of Labor, and unions, including the =
United Food=20
and Commercial Workers, the Service Employees International Union, and=20
UNITE/HERE. Volunteers staged rallies and vigils, knocked on doors, and =
kept up=20
the pressure on members of the council up until the day of the =
vote.</P><!--end paragraph--><!--begin paragraph-->
<P><B>Chains try to intimidate Chicago=92s poor</B></P><!--end =
paragraph--><!--begin paragraph-->
<P>The chains warned that they would abandon Chicago if the bill were =
passed,=20
and recruited ministers and community groups in the poorest and most =
oppressed=20
areas of the city to campaign against it. Attempting to mobilize the =
poor and=20
unemployed against the bill, they vilified proponents as =93robbing =
people of=20
jobs=94 at a press conference with Mayor Daley two days before the =
vote.</P><!--end paragraph--><!--begin paragraph-->
<P>According to a report in the Chicago Defender, organizers for The =
Woodlawn=20
Organization, which opposed the ordinance, packed a media event against =
the bill=20
by distributing a leaflet at the Ickes Homes housing project reading, =
=93Do you=20
want a job at Wal-Mart?=94 and telling people to bring their =
r=E9sum=E9s.</P><!--end paragraph--><!--begin paragraph-->
<P>Council member Emma Mitts, whose poor and Black community on the West =
Side is=20
the site of Chicago=92s first Wal-Mart, told the media, =93You have to =
make them=20
come in and give a wage before you raise it to a living wage.=94 Of =
course, this=20
argument for a =93sub-living wage=94 is an argument against any minimum =
wage at all;=20
it pits all the workers and unemployed against each other in a contest =
of who is=20
most desperate and will work for the least.</P><!--end =
paragraph--><!--begin paragraph-->
<P>However, an economic analysis of the bill, available on the AFL-CIO =
website,=20
paints a different picture. While the bill is estimated to provide $68.4 =
million=20
per year in additional wages and benefits, this is only about two =
percent of the=20
estimated $3.2 billion a year in sales that the workers at those stores=20
generate. </P><!--end paragraph--><!--begin paragraph-->
<P>The chains have now threatened to punish the neighborhoods whose =
aldermen and=20
women voted for the bill, and locate stores only where they voted =
against the=20
wage increase, or else suspend new construction entirely. In noisy media =

announcements, Lowe=92s announced that it would not sign leases on =
property on the=20
South and Southwest side; Target claimed it would suspend plans for =
stores at=20
119th and Marshfield and in Uptown; and Wal-Mart said it was putting =
plans for=20
20 Chicago stores =93on hold.=94</P><!--end paragraph--><!--begin =
paragraph-->
<P>Supporters of the ordinance have denounced these threats, which have =
been=20
orchestrated with City Hall. On Aug. 7, the Living Wage Coalition issued =
a=20
report blasting Target=92s action, pointing out that it has taken $10 =
million in=20
=93tax incentive=94 subsidies for its Chicago stores and now isn=92t =
even willing to=20
pay a living wage.</P><!--end paragraph--><!--begin paragraph-->
<P>The problems of the poor and unemployed in Chicago are very real,=20
particularly in the Black and Latin@ communities. As the struggle to =
defend the=20
ordinance continues, it is also high time to deliver wages, benefits, =
and jobs=20
programs for the hundreds of thousands of workers and unemployed people =
in=20
Chicago who are not covered by this bill.</P></DIV></BODY></HTML>

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