Last week I wrote that I was helping to produce a national video blog kicking off on October 23, 7 Days @ Minimum Wage, highlighting the hardships people go through when they’re stuckat the bottom of the wage ladder. I thought I would just be doing Internet outreach coordination. Instead I was tapped to find and interview participants–one of whom will become the project’s centerpiece.
This summer, when I jumped head-first into Chicago’s big-box wage debate, I repeatedly said that the best way to promote a wage increase was at the state level. Little did I suspect that, three months later, I would be selected for the national publicity team of a week-long, ACORN/AFL-CIO sponsored Internet campaign to raise the minimum wage in six states. Well, I have been.
Perhaps only with the opening of new big-box stores in Chicago’s most challenged neighborhoods will suporters of the defunct living-wage law finally be able to see the stores as a uniquely good thing. Not appropriate for every city or even every Chicago neighborhood. But the best–and only–game in town for Chicago ‘hoods in greatest need of a commercial revival. And then maybe Joe Moore will finally get his nose out of the south side and attend to the needs of his own constituents.
Well, the Chicago city council exercised its will yesterday, passing the controversial big-box $10 wage bill by a veto-proof 35 to 14 margin. Previous discussion here on Chicago Carless examined both sides of the issue. Now, as the dust settles and the city holds its collective breath and waits to see whether and when Walmart or Target flee the city for more profitable, suburban pastures, I can’t help but feel an entire side of the debate was, simply, missing.
Several good points were made in the comments thread of Thursday’s post regarding Chicago’s proposed $10 big-box living-wage ordinance that deserve a fuller airing. Voices have been passionate on both sides of this issue, with the Chicago controversy being but a part of a truly national debate. However, the main opposing points are singular enough to summarize: Wal-Mart would bring jobs; but Wal-Mart could also kill local businesses–and so could the proposed ordinance.
Everyone has a right to a living wage. But just what that wage should be–or who should have to pay it–is a debate that has been raging through Chicago’s city council this summer, possibly with disastrous consequences. On July 26, the council will vote on a bill to require big-box retailers doing business within the City of Chicago to pay their employees $10 an hour. Can a law like that be put into practice without workers losing their jobs?