Friday, June 25, 2010



Finally, a deal has been struck; Walmart has agreed to pay the new hires in its proposed Pullman Park store $8.75, $0.50 over the minimum wage, and to give such workers a bump to $9.50 an hour after a year of decent performance. In exchange, big labor, in the person of Dennis Gannon, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, has agreed to call of its aldermanic dogs, dropping its opposition to this second Walmart store in the city of Chicago and, as day follows night, allowing other stores down the line. Indeed, Alderman Ed Burke, our fair city’s aldermanic dean, labor’s man in the City Council, and quite a student of Chicago history, stated, in the wake of the agreement

This is historic. This is the first time that the world’s largest retailer has actually engaged in a dialogue with its opponents.”

The first time Walmart has engaged in a dialogue with its opponents? Bear in mind that Alderman Burke, in addition to his other skills and attributes, is a man given to exaggeration now and again. But I digress.

Was it really the $8.75 an hour, far below the $11.50 Mr. Gannon had originally been seeking, that carried the day? Mr. Gannon, in announcing the deal, indicated that there was more to it than that:

Take a look at the job market right now. Our communities need jobs. Take a look at food deserts. Our communities stores. Take a look at no building and construction trade going on in Chicago. Thirty percent unemployment.”

Did these conditions suddenly develop overnight? Was Chicago the very picture of prosperity but then only in the last few weeks suddenly veered off Primrose Lane onto a fast route to becoming the next Detroit? Mr. Gannon’s oration sounds like it could have been cribbed directly from Mayor Daley’s continuing speeches and pronouncements in favor of Walmart’s efforts in Chicago, efforts that the Mayor has been supporting for at least the last two or three years.

I suppose that there may be nothing more to this episode. 50 cents an hour and a sudden realization by a labor leader, who is about as inside as anyone can get, that Chicago’s economic prospects do not rival those of Beijing may have been the reason an agreement was reached on the Pullman Park Walmart and the door to the city was opened wide for the guys from Bentonville. And I’m about to become the Socialist candidate for President of the United States and pick Lady GaGa (or whatever that comely yet talentless lady’s name is) for my running mate.

No, none of this emits a pleasant aroma for anybody who has followed Chicago politics for even the last year or so, let alone the last 50 or so, as has yours truly. The obvious question becomes “What was the real deal here?” I don’t know any more than what I read in the papers, but somewhere a deal was cut among some or all of the big players in the Walmart drama, including the Mayor, Dennis Gannon, Walmart, and Eddy Burke. The deal may have been so all-encompassing as to include some of the bit players in the Walmart drama, including Alderman Tony Beale (in whose ward this particular Walmart will be built), Alderman Carrie Austin (in whose ward another Walmart is scheduled to be built) and God only knows who else. Further, one suspects that the other sides of the real deal, when their outlines become public, or at least obvious, will have little directly to do with Walmart. But anyone who’s paying attention, and reads my books, will know what’s going on. And, depending on what gets exchanged for what, I’m not sure there will necessarily be anything wrong with such a deal.

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