Chicago mayor Richard Daley has vetoed a bill that would have forced "big-box" retailers (those with revenues over $1 billion annually or with 90,000 or more square feet such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Target) to pay a higher wage and benefit amount than the national minimum wage in Chicago stores. The retailers balked, including Target which said it would cancel future stores in the city if the ordinance passed. In response, Mayor Daley decided to veto the bill put forth by City Council.
Daley said that losing the stores would "drive jobs and businesses from our city, penalizing neighborhoods that need additional economic activity the most." This statement is especially true in Chicago where many residents flee to the suburbs for lower prices offered by big-box retailers.
But the fight doesn't end with Daley's veto. The City Council is threatening to pass a "veto override" later this week to enact the plan, regardless of Daley's thoughts on the subject as a pro-union Democrat. In order to achieve an over-ride the city council must get 34 votes. The original vote on this measure was 35-14 when it was passed.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of this plays out as the City Council doesn't appear to have actions to match their rhetoric. The Wall Street Journal reported the following about this City Council.
- It turns out that the wage bill's chief sponsor, Alderman Joe Moore, shops at suburban big-box retail stores, for the usual reason. His campaign committee has purchased $30,589 worth of supplies at big-box retailers outside the city, according to disclosure forms. Alderman Moore isn't alone out there with a cart among the high stacks. A review of Illinois State Board of Elections disclosure forms finds that the 35 aldermen who voted to stick it to the "big box" retailers have spent $114,000 patronizing these non-Chicago stores.
I know it is really tough to soften the image of a giant retailer that doesn't really pay all that well and has a propensity to hire illegal immigrants via a subcontractor to clean their stores, all the while driving the proverbial "mom and pops" right out of business (allegedly). But if anyone seems incapable of casting stones in this argument it is this City Council. They appear to be hypocritical, for one, but also unrealistic about the state of their economy.
While forcing the wage issue with these retailers might be a noble cause, this city council can not make it happen in a vacuum. The side-effects of such a proposal would be more disastrous. So, even if the cause they fight for is right, they will have to find another way to fight this battle.