“Or Else” Seems to Have Won for Now

Vote on city's second Walmart likely delayed months

Before a Chicago City Council committee on Wednesday passed the controversial plan for a South Side Wal-Mart store to another committee, dozens rallied downtown in hopes of pressuring legislators to support the development.

"It's not a union issue. It's not a Wal-Mart issue," said Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) on Wednesday morning at the "Jobs or Else" rally outside the Thompson Center at LaSalle and Randolph. "We're talking about wards all across the city of Chicago where people can go to work."

A new Walmart Supercenter would create 400 jobs, foster local economic development and increase accessibility to healthier foods in an area struggling with ever increasing obesity and diabetes rates, a release from the retailer said.

Mayor Richard Daley is on board with the plan to bring a Walmart to the vacant lot at 83rd and Stewart in Ald. Howard Brookins' 21st Ward.  The plan has languished since 2004, when aldermen rejected a zoning change to allows the store's construction. There is only one Wal-Mart in Chicago, on North Avenue in the 37th Ward.

"Why is OK to build in the suburban areas and every democratic congressional district, and every state senator or representative or mayor is all Democrat?  Why is it alright to build there, and in some way, it's not alright to build in the city," Daley asked aloud.

Ald. Ed Burke, a union supporter and leader of the council's Finance Committee, is no fan of the Arkansas-based chain.

"I believe the employees of Walmart should have a right to join unions, and I think that Walmart should sign a cardship neutrality agreement just like so many other employers do," Burke said.

Burke said he didn't know when his committee would hold a hearing on the issue, and it's unlikely a full council vote on the issue will come before it's known whether or not Chicago has been selected as the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

"No one wants a floor fight and it would be a floor fight, and it will be a floor fight whenever it comes up," said Ald. Freddrenna Lyle.

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