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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hooray for abysmal labor conditions—we're getting Walmarted

Posted By on 06.29.11 at 04:24 PM

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  • Image by mjb84 via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
As part of its "conquer Chicago" campaign, Walmart's announced that it's opening a store by Wrigley Field. Supporters of the store, who either don't care about Walmart's well-documented discriminatory, unstable, and unfair labor practices, or who are paid by the company to pose as community supporters, say on the Internet that the new store will be a tremendous boon to Lakeview and its residents (of which I am one). After all, cheap crap for everyone! (Except for those of us who won't ever shop there!)

A sampling of the Stepford-sounding comments being posted by the pro-Walmart crowd to Crain's:

This is wonderful news for our ward. Alderman [James] Cappelman, please support this and the luxury homes planned on Montrose ... Alderman, please do not support the 2 a.m. Mexican bar on Broadway and Belle Plaine - unless major concessions are made on the aesthetics. The bar will greatly diminish the positive projects being proposed elsewhere.

Yes of course a Walmart will be much more aesthetically pleasing than a Mexican bar; Walmart's architecture is more appealing than that of most companies. Maybe we should give them some extra tax credits so they can afford to plant beautification flowers, or exempt them from property taxes altogether. They're practically doing us a favor by moving in, after all.

Another commenter confuses competition with monopolization:

Why are there so many here who want to prevent or limit legal commerce and free enterprise? If Treasure Island or Jewel or Walgreen or 7-11 goes out of business because they couldn't meet customer needs as well as Wal-Mart, I won't shed a tear.

Yay! Survival of the fittest.

If this next fake-sounding comment isn't from a paid employee of Walmart, then it's very sad:

This is the best news for the ward since the opening of the Target (which does not seem to have crushed the Aldi next door). What a win for the area. Lower priced products, intro-level jobs that can be accessed by transit, and a company with a record of promoting clerks to management. Fantastic win for us. How's that for hitting "green jobs", work experience, and affordable merdchandise?

The old dairy will be a great retail space for this use. My hope is that they retain at least the facades to retain the city feel. If they do it will surely be a hit. Most people in the area from Sheffield to the Lake and from Irving to Belmont would walk to the store rather than drive. Traffic concerns are overblown in my view.

What is an "intro-level job"? Is it one that pays poorly and offers minimal opportunity for advancement? Because that's one area where Walmart excels. Of course, the company's not alone in this area: Target, the previous "best news for the ward" story, is really no better for workers, and many other companies aren't, either. But as the country's largest employer, Walmart gets the most heat for its labor practices—as it should.

In recent weeks, media outlets have reported on a new group called Organization United for Respect at Walmart, a coalition of hourly Walmart associates who say it's time to demand respect—as well as higher pay and better benefits—from their employer. They're not a union—Walmart hates unions, and would surely shut them down right quick—but they've joined up with other like-minded groups who share the common belief that guaranteeing the sustainibility of workers' wages is just as worthwhile a subject for discussion as What's on Sale. Now if we could just get all those commenters to agree . . .

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