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Good Morning America Brushes Off Wal-Mart Veto News from Chicago

      ABC’s Chris Cuomo took a quick shot at Wal-Mart in a brief news read on the September 12 “Good Morning America.”

 

      The news desk anchor informed his audience that “a so-called living wage measure” vetoed by the mayor would have required “mega-stores, like Wal-Mart, that make more than a billion dollars in sales” to pay employees “at least $10-an-hour.”

 

     Cuomo noted that “retailers had warned they’d be forced to move outside the city.”

 

     A quick read like that paints the picture of a greedy company picking up its marbles to play elsewhere for spite.

 

      But there’s more to the story than that.

 

     As the Associated Press and the Chicago Sun-Times have noted, Chicago’s liberal Democrat-dominated city council is far from Wal-Mart friendly, while surrounding jurisdictions have welcomed the Arkansas-based retailer for the jobs and tax revenue they bring.

 

     “While Chicago politicians debate the big-box ordinance, suburban officials say they are thrilled to collect Wal-Mart Stores' hefty tax dollars, and they express no qualms about the wages Wal-Mart pays,” Chicago Sun-Times reporter Sandra Guy began her August 28 story.

 

     “Indeed, suburban leaders say Wal-Mart has helped invigorate once-moribund shopping centers because other retailers are eager to open near a Wal-Mart,” Guy added.

 

     And for a company that labor union critics say offers poor wages and benefits, earlier this year, a new Chicago-area Wal-Mart was swamped with job requests.

 

     As Shruti Date Singh of Crain’s Chicago Business reported on January 25, a new Wal-Mart location in Evergreen Park, Illinois, “received a record 25,000 applications for 325 positions.”

 

    All told, Singh reported, “90% of the applications came from Chicago residents,” according to Wal-Mart Chicago-area manager Chad Donath. Donath told Singh the average wage for full-time employees at the Chicago-area store was $10.99-an-hour.

 

     While Chicago suburbs are welcoming Wal-Mart, the city itself approved its first Wal-Mart after months of heated debate in May 2004, the Associated Press reported. “We are dealing with a huge company with a long history of predatory practices,” the AP recorded Alderman Helen Shiller as arguing. In a May 26, 2004, story, the AP added that the council voted to approve one store in the West Side of the city but narrowly rejected plans for one in the city’s South Side.

 

     Wal-Mart is not the only goose that the Chicago City Council has tried to cook with regulations or outright bans. In April the council passed by a 48-1 vote a ban on foie gras. But now, report Chicago Tribune writers Gary Washburn and Mark Caro, some aldermen are having second thoughts.

 

     “Anybody who has traveled anywhere in this country knows that people are just laughing their heads off at us," Ald. Bernard Stone told the Tribune. Stone originally supported the ban but has co-authored legislation to repeal it with Ald. Burton Natarus.

 

     “Some of my friends, chefs outside Illinois, have named Chicago the ‘Nanny City,’” quipped executive chef Allen Sternweiler to the Tribune in the September 12 paper.