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Aldermen Dispute Need for South Side Wal-Mart

It’s coming down to a battle for each aldermanic vote in a fight over the addition of the first Wal-Mart on the South Side.

A group of local ministers demanded attention at city hall this week in an attempt to gain aldermanic support in their quest to set fair worker standards. Meanwhile, Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) continued to fight for Wal-Mart to finally set stake in his ward.

Brookins said Mayor Richard M. Daley has made it clear he will not support the development without approval from the city council.

About a dozen ministers set forth principles and standards they want met before aldermen allow any large retailer, specifically Wal-Mart, to set up shop. The coalition is requesting higher living wages and affordable and comprehensive healthcare, along with hiring and promoting from within the local community.

“We want to make sure our people are taken care of. We are not stopping. We are still in the battlefield trying to make sure that this isn’t being done in backrooms or through backdoors,” said Rev. Booker Vance, president of the Southsiders Organizing for Unity and Liberation (SOUL).

Vance said the next step for his organization is to seek support from local aldermen to make sure the project cannot be pushed through without standards in place.

Brookins said he supports the addition of a Wal-Mart to his ward, and during his four years of fighting for the development, he said his community has lost out on financial opportunities.

“The city has missed out on millions of dollars of tax revenue; people have missed out on hundreds of jobs,” Brookins said. “We need jobs now in the African-American communities where we are looking at a 20 percent unemployment rate. We are in desperate straits.”

Brookins said Wal-Mart should not be held to different standards than other retail companies.

“Retail has always paid low wages. They make it seem as if Wal-Mart created low paying jobs,” Brookins said.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said he will not support the addition of a Wal-Mart and said it’s a mistake to seek jobs without making sure workers have fair wages and healthcare benefits.

“It’s a guarantee to spiral into a race to the bottom. You need to have standards and you need to have decent wages, so that people can support their family and spend in a local economy,” Moore said.

Ald. Freddrenna M. Lyle (6th) is opposed to the Wal-Mart development and said the location will directly affect her ward by negatively impacting small businesses.

“Small businesses are the ones that support the little leagues and the PTA. I’m against anything that endangers the small businesses in my community and Wal-Mart does that,” Lyle said.

Brookins said he hopes the Wal-Mart development could break ground as soon as October.

Both Lyle and Moore said they don’t believe Brookins has the number of votes needed to bring the deal before the city council anytime soon.

“It would certainly be a battle and I don’t think anyone really has the stomach for such a battle at this time,” said Moore.

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