The fate of a new Chicago Wal-Mart is still hanging in the balance, as the City Council's Zoning Committee once again postponed a vote on the project.
The committee was scheduled to have an up-or-down vote on the Pullman Park Wal-Mart at Thursday's meeting. But it was delayed at the behest of Wal-Mart and of Alderman Anthony Beale, a supporter of the project.
This led labor leaders, who oppose the new development, to speculate that Wal-Mart didn't have the votes.
Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon blasted Wal-Mart for spending millions on advertising to improve its public image while refusing to "sit down and come up with a solution to pay workers a decent wage."
"They still don't have the votes. That's what this [delay] is all about. It's a stall tactic on behalf of Wal-Mart," Gannon said.
Ron Powell, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 881, said, "At the last meeting, they said there would be an up-or-down vote on June 3rd. That's not happening. It only tells me they don't have the votes. It's a shame they have to put the aldermen through this."
The Pullman Park development is an attempt to solve one of the South Side's most intractable problems: food deserts. In vast swaths of the South Side, including Pullman Park, there are no grocers selling fresh food. Residents can either subsist off packaged foods available at corner stores, or travel for miles through dangerous neighborhoods to reach a supermarket.
Few argue that Wal-Mart would help solve that problem. But union leaders and aldermen alike are also looking out for the interests of Wal-Mart's employees. In particular, they have asked for assurances that workers be paid a living wage of $11.03 an hour, well above the current minimum wage of $8.00.
And with the Zoning Committee stacked with labor allies, the project is in trouble. Hence the recent delay.
As for Wal-Mart's plans, company spokesman Steven Restivo told the Sun-Times: "We're gonna use the time between now and the next Zoning meeting to continue to garner support for Wal-Mart and the jobs and affordable groceries we can provide."