Community groups pledge to monitor Chicago’s second Walmart

July 26, 2011
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A coalition of Chicago community organizations, small businesses and residents want to remind Walmart that it’s closely watching how the company fulfills the promises made to the city.

As the first Walmart Express location opens in Chatham, Chicago Neighborhoods First will be holding Walmart accountable to the Chatham Market Community Benefits Agreement.

Chicago’s first Walmart opened in 2006 at 4650 W. North Ave., in Austin, quickly becoming one of the West Side’s larger employers. But the jobs have come at a cost, researchers found.

The store has not enhanced retail activity in the community nor has it enhanced employment opportunities, according to findings released in early 2010 by Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Urban Research and Learning (CURL), in collaboration with academics at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

The Impact of an Urban Wal-Mart Store on Area Businesses: An Evaluation of One Chicago Neighborhood’s Experience also found that the probability of a local retailer going out of business during the study period was significantly higher for establishments close to Walmart’s location.

Earlier this year, a Crain’s investigation concluded the benefits to minority contractors were less than suggested when the company announced the hiring of an African-American female as the project’s general contractor. Much of the large-scale work done on the Austin store, Crain’s found, went to non-minority firms.

Walmart plans to expand elsewhere in Chicago. Before the company is allowed to dominate the marketplace, it is important that we remember the commitments that the company presented to the Chicago City Council to win approval for the Chatham store.

In the Chatham Market Walmart Community Benefits Memo, Walmart projected that the Chatham Market development would create new tax revenues and be a catalyst for economic development for the South Side.

In addition, the company specifically outlined a variety of specific commitments, including:

  • purchasing goods from local minority-owned small businesses;
  • promoting local businesses;
  • opening an accessible community hiring center;
  • hosting pre-employment workshops to provide potential applicants with resume writing and interviewing skills;
  • hiring a diverse workforce from the community;
  • and supporting community initiatives and not-for-profit organizations.

“We watched what has happened since the opening of the West Side Walmart,” stated Elce Redmond, organizer with South Austin Community Coalition (SACC).  “Existing mom-and-pop stores have closed, hiring has gone outside of the community, and they have not made good on their promise to provide employment opportunities to ex-offenders.

Chicago Neighborhoods First and similar coalitions in urban markets throughout the country are building campaigns to hold Walmart accountable to respect its workers and the communities where they seek to expand.

Earlier this month, the Respect DC coalition flash-mobbed a local Walmart demanding that the company respect Washington, D.C., and its associates; the YouTube video of the action has gone viral.

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  1. Pingback: The Week in Walmart News: Concerns Continue in South Africa, Protests in India, and a Stock Downgrade » Walmart Watch

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