Wal-Mart coming to Presidential Towers

Walmart Towers West Loop

[Wal-Mart Towers, West Loop]

Speaking of unions, one of the country’s biggest anti-union corporations1 is about to open up a location entirely too near me:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to open a Neighborhood Market store at the Presidential Towers apartment complex in the West Loop in what would be the discount chain’s first small grocery store in Chicago.

The world’s largest retailer intends to spend $1 million to build out 26,491 square feet on one level at the residential tower at 555 W. Madison St., according to a building permit filed on behalf of Wal-Mart.

(click here to continue reading Wal-Mart market coming to Presidential Towers | Chicago Breaking Business.)

Four Tops

from the Wall Street Journal, 2009, but still relevant:

Since February, about 60 UFCW organizers have been dispatched to more than 100 Wal-Mart stores in 15 states to get workers to sign union-authorization cards. The cards are attached to flyers that feature a photograph of President Barack Obama and a quote from a 2007 speech he gave to UFCW activists in Chicago. “I don’t mind standing up for workers and letting Wal-Mart know they need to pay a decent wage and let folks organize,” Mr. Obama said in 2007. A White House spokesman said Thursday that the president stands by the statement.

Meanwhile, the UFCW plans to fly about 100 pro-union Wal-Mart workers to Washington this month to lobby members of Congress on the pending legislation, known as Employee Free Choice Act. The bill, organized labor’s top legislative priority, would allow unions to bypass secret-ballot elections and form union locals if more than 50% of workers at a company location signed cards requesting representation. At this point, the union said it hasn’t obtained majority support at any Wal-Mart stores, but has majorities in a handful of individual departments, which can be unionized separately.

Business groups are spending tens of millions of dollars to defeat the bill and say it would allow union organizers to pressure workers to sign cards.

Wal-Mart remains one of labor’s staunchest opponents, arguing that a union would lead to higher operating costs and less flexibility in managing workers. It also represents labor’s biggest prize, because its jobs can’t be shipped overseas and it sets standards in the retail and grocery industries. Union officials believe they would have an easier time organizing Wal-Mart competitors if the retailer were represented by unions.

(click here to continue reading Union Intensifies Efforts to Organize Workers at Wal-Mart – WSJ.com.)

Kevin Robinson of the Chicagoist has been covering Wal-Mart’s Chicago plans for a while:

A lot of them are afraid that they’re going to close the store,” Linda says. “Because they did close a store.” Wal-Mart closed its store in Jonquière, Quebec Canada in 2005 after workers there joined the United Food and Commercial Workers union. That Wal-Mart employees in suburban Chicago know this five years later is a testament to the company’s efforts to ensure that its employees don’t sign union cards.

Wal-Mart uses a subtle but effective form of union busting to keep their employees from organizing. It starts with showing anti-union videos as part of new employee orientation. A requirement of all employees is that they must attend mandatory “continuing education” meetings, featuring videos produced by corporate headquarters. Rosetta and Linda told me about the videos the company makes employees watch. “Our [store] had never used a demo person [in a video],” Rosetta told me. “A demo person is the ones that just lost they jobs – you wear black pants, white shirt and a white hair net…. They added a new saying watch out for this person, if they talking out against the company, they might be crazy. And they showed a person wearing black pants, a white shirt and a white hair net. And it was like watch out for a worker like that she might be crazy!” Rosetta says that when that video came out, her coworkers were telling her she had to go see it, because they felt she was the one being portrayed.

But Wal-Mart has made indoctrinating their employees against joining a union part of the culture of the company. Aside from regularly showing anti-union videos, they also maintain a well-organized set of front-line managers to harass, interrogate and threaten employees that might be trying to get organized. Documented cases of such practices in the Chicago region don’t appear to exist, as a serious union organizing drive has yet to materialize in a local Wal-Mart. But a 2007 case study by Human Rights Watch looked pretty extensively at the corporation’s actions in Greely, Colorado and Kingman, Arizona, both the site of serious attempts by employees to join the UFCW.

Dystopos. Wal-Mart maintains a national union hotline that supervisors are instructed to call at any hint that the employees in a given facility might be considering joining a union. Teams of professional union busters are then sent from Bentonville, Arkansas to thwart any attempt by employees to organize. In both Greely and Kingman, the company’s labor relations team was deployed to the stores.

(click here to continue reading Working for Wal-Mart, Part Three – Chicagoist.)

Baby's On Fire

and how did Wal-Mart get permission to even build stores in Chicago?

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s divide-and- conquer strategy prevailed in Chicago by pitting construction workers against employees who will stock shelves and ring registers.

The biggest U.S. retailer reached a deal with the building trades union two weeks before the city council unanimously approved Chicago’s second store. Those workers will erect all Wal-Mart facilities in northern Illinois during the next three years, according to a labor agreement signed by Patrick Hamilton, Wal-Mart’s vice president of construction.

The non-union employees who will staff the stores in the nation’s third-largest city have no such agreement.

“Wal-Mart played on the whims of the building trade unions, and the rest gave in,” Reverend Booker Vance, a spokesman for Good Jobs Chicago, a coalition of local unions, congregations and community groups, said in a telephone interview. “You have a lot of smoke and mirrors, and Wal-Mart would like to give the impression that they acted in good faith, but they have not.”

Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy at the University of California at Santa Barbara and author of “The Retail Revolution: How Wal- Mart Created a Brave New World of Business,” agreed with Vance.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and the Chicago Federation of Labor, an umbrella organization representing 300 unions in the area, were “sold out by the building trades, who are still pretty powerful in the city,” Lichtenstein said in a telephone interview.

(click here to continue reading Wal-Mart Cracks Chicago by Splitting Union, Non-Union Workers – Bloomberg.)

Still won’t shop there, despite being able to soon see Walmart from my window. Hope various small businesses nearby don’t shutter.

  1. I think the official way to spell Walmart is without the dash, but still see both variants []

1 thought on “Wal-Mart coming to Presidential Towers

  1. Yolanda Atkins says:

    Thanks for putting a closer store in this area.

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