Wal-Mart’s Big-City Plans Stall Again


Published: May 6, 2004, by the NY Timers

CHICAGO, May 5 — Less than a month after voters in Inglewood Calif., rejected Wal-Mart’s effort to build a store there, Wal-Mart was dealt another blow on Wednesday when the Chicago City Council postponed a vote on zoning changes that would have allowed it to open its first two stores here.

The setbacks in Chicago and Inglewood reflect the increasing difficulty Wal-Mart is facing as it tries to push in to more urban markets.

Most of Wal-Mart’s more than 3,500 stores in the United States are in rural and suburban areas. Chicago may be a major test of whether organized labor, which is relatively strong here, can block or obstruct the company’s plans to continue expanding in big cities.

“It would be nice to have seen the proposal go through and be voted on today,” said John Bisio, a Wal-Mart spokesman, “but this just gives us the opportunity to engage people and go back and dispel a lot of the misinformation that’s out there.”

The dispute has pitted some of the city’s most prominent politicians, clergymen and civic leaders against each other. Both sides brought busloads of people to City Hall for the council meeting, and there were boisterous demonstrations in the corridors and on nearby streets.

Supporters of Wal-Mart’s expansion plans here say the company offers both badly needed jobs and rock-bottom prices. They said they were disappointed by the council vote, but still expected it to approve the zoning changes at its next meeting on May 26. Individual aldermen are able to block a vote on such changes once, but under council rules a roll-call vote must be taken at the next meeting.

Opponents vowed, however, to intensify their campaign against the giant retailer, which they say crushes small businesses and lowers labor standards by paying low wages, offering minimal benefits and opposing efforts by its employees to unionize.

(Read more…)


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