Wal-Mart Gets OK For Chicago’s West Side

May 27, 2004

By George Anderson

Wal-Mart was looking for approval to open two stores inside Chicago city limits. It got half of what it wanted, at least for now.

The retailer was given the go-ahead to build a store on the West Side of Chicago after what was described as a contentious debate.

The arguments against Wal-Mart were familiar. Chicago Alderman Joseph Moore was quoted by the Chicago Sun-Times as saying, “We are being asked to approve a zoning change that will permit in our city a company that has literally devastated the local economies of cities and towns throughout our nation — a company that promises lots of new jobs, not bothering to tell us that most pay near-poverty wages.”

Proponents saw it differently. Alderwoman Emma Mitts responded, “I started out at $4 a day — not an hour. I had an opportunity to keep elevating — taking jobs at McDonald’s . . . all the way to the post office and meter maid. Those are opportunities that you keep grabbing hold of in life . . . Somebody’s out there waiting on that first opportunity.”

Approval for a second location on the South Side was defeated by a single vote and is likely to be reintroduced in a future session.

Even supporters such as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley say Wal-Mart needs to change its approach to avoid the bitter feuding that characterized the debate in Chicago.

“I hope they are listening to the 50 aldermen here,” he was quoted by the Chicago Tribune. “It is a very controversial issue. On some issues, Wal-Mart must face reality.”

Moderator’s Comment: What are your thoughts on the Chicago City Council’s vote on Wal-Mart? Considering the intensity
of the debate concerning Wal-Mart entering Chicago, do you expect to see the retailer make any changes in the way it operates?

Another quote this time from the Sun-Times attributed to Wal-Mart supporter, Richard Daley. “Wal-Mart has to become a better corporate citizen. Everyone
knows that.”

It’s interesting to note, in light of yesterday’s discussion on this site, Wal-Mart
and Urban America
, according to the Chicago Tribune, all but two African-American Aldermen voted in favor of giving the retailer permission to build in the city.

George Anderson – Moderator

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