Chicago Wal-Mart: Unions Reach Deal, Passage Expected

06/24/2010 01:13 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

At a press conference this morning, the Chicago Federation of Labor announced its support for a Wal-Mart superstore on the South Side, after reaching a deal with the corporate giant on employee wages.

Crain's Chicago Business reports that Wal-Mart will pay workers an entry wage of $8.75-an-hour, as previously reported, a salary of 50 cents above the minimum wage. But the company has also agreed to give a 40-cent-an-hour raise to employees within a year.

Labor had been asking for salaries of at least $9.25-an-hour. After the one-year raise, the deal comes only ten cents short of the union's demands.

Dennis Gannon, the president of the powerful Chicago Federation of Labor, seemed satisfied with the result of his efforts. "It's been a long fight," Mr. Gannon said, according to Crain's. " Wal-Mart never sat down with organized labor until they sat down with us."

The deal comes just hours before a scheduled Zoning Committee meeting in which the Wal-Mart question was on the agenda.

Alderman Danny Solis, the chairman of the committee, had been planning to delay the vote, hoping that the unions would reach just such a deal. Now, "he expects the vote to go forward and the plan to be approved," according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Proponents of the new Wal-Mart, set to be developed in the Pullman Park area on the South Side, argue that it will bring jobs, economic development and fresh produce to a part of the city that has none of the three.

Detractors, however, have argued that the promise of jobs may be hollow, and that the company is known for exploiting its workers and destroying neighboring small businesses.

The city's first Wal-Mart was approved by the City Council in 2004, and built on the city's West Side. In the intervening six years, Mayor Daley and the company have lobbied intensely to develop more Wal-Marts in the city, especially in the South Side, which suffers from such a lack of fresh food that much of it is termed a "food desert."

And with what one alderman described as "Wal-Mart fatigue" setting in, the City Council seems poised to break that stalemate now.

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