Food and Jobs in Chicago's South Side "Food Desert"? 73% of Chicago Voters Say YES
Five hundred jobs is a helluva lot better than no jobs at all. In this disastrous economy, company layoffs and plant shutdowns are as plentiful as glazed doughnuts. Meanwhile, for years the City Council has been blocking the corporate behemoth Wal-Mart from building a megastore on the old Ryerson Steel yard at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue.
For months, the Council has held hostage an ordinance sponsored by Ald. Howard Brookins to bring a new Wal-Mart to his 21st Ward on the South Side. It may finally come up for a vote this week. Passage, however, is far from assured.
It seems that many members of that august body are terrified of labor unions like the Service Employees International Union, which charges that Wal-Mart underpays and disrespects workers. Vote for a Wal-Mart, the unions warn, and we'll run you out of office. Our jobs or no jobs, they proclaim.
No matter that the unemployment rate for metropolitan Chicago rose to 11.3% in June, the highest in 26 years, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The Council doesn't care that the proposed Chatham store would employ up to 500 workers. Wal-Mart says its Chicago area stores pay an average hourly wage of $12.05 for associates.
Aldermen could give a whit that the multimillion-dollar West Side Wal-Mart store was built by an African-American female general contractor, with 57% of all the subcontracts going to women and minority-owned firms. They sneeze at the other rich bennies Wal-Mart claims it has brought to Chicago: Its West Side store generated $10 million in new tax revenues in its first two years, and 14 new minority-owned Chicago vendors have gotten their products into Chicago area stores.
Our elected representatives couldn't care less. Here's someone who might finally get their attention: Voters. Serious voters. The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce is rolling out a new poll that may turn some aldermanic heads.
The poll, which queried registered voters in 12 wards throughout the city, was conducted by the Freeman Institute, a Chicago-based political advisory and public affairs firm that specializes in targeted polling. The survey, taken June 8-12, targeted residents with long histories of voter participation.
Question: "Should your alderman vote to approve the proposed Wal-Mart store on Chicago's South Side?" Seventy-three percent of voters polled said yes, 17 percent said no, and 10 percent had "no opinion."
~Laura Washington in today's Chicago Sun-Times