By: Angelica Cardoso
A coalition of Lakeview community members, organizations, local business owners, faith leaders, union
representatives, the neighborhood chamber of commerce and others united this morning to speak out against Wal-Mart’s intent to open a store in the Lakeview neighborhood, on Broadway just north of Diversey. There is currently a T.J. Maxx and a Cost Plus World Market in this location. Wal-Mart plans to utilize two empty store fronts and buy out the World Market space to essentially take up the whole block. Across the street on the east side of Broadway are several small, independent stores which the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce and community members fear will shut down if a Wal-Mart moves in.
The country’s largest big box store and world’s largest retail store also faces dismay from Chicago’s religious community. Rev. C.J. Hawking spoke on behalf of Arise Chicago’s clergy and congregation network which views Wal-Mart as an irresponsible employer. The company usually does not offer livable wages or provide essential benefits to its workers, causing taxpayers to subsidize Wal-Mart by paying government benefits such as Medicaid or food stamps often needed by Wal-Mart workers. Additionally, as one community member pointed out, Wal-Mart often displaces more jobs in a community than it creates because of nearby store closings. Another community member talked about how his home town in Indiana saw a Wal-Mart come in with low prices, thereby destroying neighborhood stores, only to raise prices once the competition had all shut down. This community member started a Facebook group called Stop the Lakeview/Lincoln Park Walmart, which now has 861 members, and provides several links with news stories and other information like the company’s proposed store plan, allegedly kept secret until now. One community member also started an independent online survey of Lakeview residents their opinion on a Wal-Mart opening in their neighborhood, and others created an online petition against the store.
On Wednesday, May 4th, the feature-length documentary Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price will be screened at the Landmark Century Cinema Theater located at 2828North Clark at 7:30p.m. with Q&A to follow.
For additional information on campaigns fighting to improve Wal-Mart’s practices see Wake Up Wal-Mart, a campaign founded by the United Food and Commercial Workers. The campaign also has a Facebook page. Finally, check out a study that finds that if Wal-Mart increased its wages, shoppers would barely notice–debunking the myth that the retail giant can’t afford to pay higher wages without jacking up prices.
– Angelica is an intern at Arise Chicago