Chicago’s controversial big- box ordinance has produced its first casualty: Target has pulled out of a 32-acre shopping mall at 119th and Marshfield and will likely cut and run from the North Side’s Wilson Yards project as well, city officials said Wednesday.
Target’s decision to follow through on its threat to avoid Chicago comes just one week after a bitterly divided City Council defied Daley by requiring retailing giants to pay their employees a “living wage” of at least $10 an hour and $3 in benefits by 2010.
“No matter how much money these corporations have, each individual store has to operate as a profit center. This can add upwards of $1 million a year to the cost of operating these stores,” Healey said.
Wow. A whole million dollars. PER STORE. That’s a lot of money. $2 million, for the two stores mentioned in the story.
Until you consider that Target pulled down $435 million in profits last year. Gosh, how will they cope with their sudden poverty? How will their CEO, who made $23 million last year, pay for his children’s checkups? Those poor, poor, poor people. They’re going to be devastated by this.
Let me put this as succinctly as I can. Any city official who buys this victimization is so dumb as to be worthy of a Bush cabinet post.
I actually don’t think too much of the “big box” ordinance. As I wrote in my last column:
For what it’s worth, if we want to mandate a living wage in the city of Chicago, we should mandate a living wage, period. Exploitation of workers is wrong no matter who does it.
It’s easy to pick on Wal-Mart for being a lousy corporate citizen while giving the proverbial mom and pop shops a pass. Everybody loves to hate Wal-Mart and romanticize small businesses, but that’s a rotten basis for legislation. Either you believe in paying workers fairly or you don’t.
As it stands, the only people this ordinance will enrich are the lawyers who fight over it in court.
The measure’s opponents claim it will chase away jobs, and no doubt retailers will use it as an excuse to whine to city councils that they need tax breaks. And sure, when you have no job, one that pays the federal minimum wage — $5.15 per hour — or the state baseline — $6.50 — looks pretty good. But let’s not confuse half a loaf with a whole loaf just because we’re starving.
Backers of the “big-box ordinance” claim it won’t hurt the retailers at all, which is a staggering understatement. They needn’t hail this as any great victory for the working people, however. It’s a pretty pathetic excuse for progress, $10 per hour by 2010.
But for Target to come now pleading poverty, saying it’s all just too much for them, well, that’s revolting. It’s insulting to the people who work for them and it’s insulting to their customers. It would be insulting to the city if the city had retained the capacity for insult.
I wonder exactly how much in
bribes “tax subsidies” it’ll take to tempt them back into Chicago. I wonder how long we’ll have to swan around like the civic equivalent of a prom date desperate to lose her virginity before the company comes back, acting like it’s being benevolent by selling us its wares and employing our citizens at wages that wouldn’t pay its CEO’s bar tab in a year.