About that Wal-Mart Wage Deal…
It looked like at least a modest victory: in exchange for the right to build a second store in Chicago, Wal-Mart would pay all employees in the city at least $8.75 an hour (50 cents more than the state minimum) and would raise wages to at least $9.15 within the first year. While the wage level was still lacking (back in 2006, advocates called for a living wage of $10 an hour plus benefits) the agreement represented an unprecedented step. As the blog Chicagoist noted: “The labor movement in Chicago has done what nobody else in North America has been able to do: force Wal-Mart to negotiate a wage agreement on behalf of their employees with a labor union.”
By all appearances the door was open to make similar demands – and build on them – as a condition for opening Wal-Mart stores in other urban markets, including New York. Alas, no sooner had Chicago’s zoning committee approved the changes necessary for a second Wal-Mart store in the city than the company began insisting that the deal did not exist. Instead, Wal-Mart spokespeople made the dubious claim that the company’s wages were already “as good, if not better” than its Chicago competitors. The upshot? Chicago’s City Council would be wise to get all agreements in writing before granting final approval to the store this week.
In the meantime, New Yorkers’ caution about embracing a similar deal with company appears well-founded.