A friend of mine from Alabama once said her Uncle John Dougal was so smart he could “out-brass the Yankees.”
John Dougal, meet Walmart. Those small-town Arkies came up here to the big city of Chicago, and hustled us like a bunch of rubes. That’s right. We’re the city slickers who got taken advantage of by Mr. Haney.
In order to win permission for a Walmart in the Pullman neighborhood, Wal-mart promised aldermen and union leaders that they would pay workers $8.75 an hour. Here’s what a Walmart spokesman told the Reader about that promise:
Walmart spokesman Steve Restivo says there are no binding documents showing Walmart will pay those rates.
“All I can say is that we will offer a competitive wage.”
Which means, they’ll pay just as poorly as every other business in the neighborhood. It’s not hard to pay a competitive wage when your only competition is Harold’s Chicken.
What’s astonishing about that shyster line is Walmart’s absolute contempt for the concept of keeping its word now that’s it’s gotten what it wants from Chicago. But shouldn’t the City Council and the Chicago Federation of Labor have expected that? Nobody gets a good deal from Walmart. Not its employees, who work without health care; not its suppliers, who are forced to turn out cut-rate products to satisfy Walmart’s pricing schemes; not its customers, who pay half as much as they would at a hardware store, for products that last a third as long; not the communities where Walmart builds a store, and sucks the life out of downtowns. Walmart is the biggest company because it takes and gives nothing back. And because it’s the biggest company in the world, it believes it should set the rules for the communities where it does business, not the other way around.
Today, Mayor Daley is asking the City Council’s Finance Committee to approve a third Walmart, in Chatham. Let’s hope the City Council forces Walmart to put its promises in writing this time. Walmart’s lawyers will probably find a way to weasel out of any agreement, but at least the company will have to work hard to be dishonest. And at least we won’t look like such rubes.