Monday, March 9, 2009

Wal-Mart Gives Big To Uptown Charity, Rumors Start

Thanks to a reader for pointing out this story from the Inside newspaper; the online version can be found at the Your News website:

"Retailer’s donation raises Wilson Yard qualms / Wal-Mart scopes out Uptown
By Jeff Borgardt, Editor

CHICAGO (YN) - A $10,000 donation by the nation’s largest retailer to an Uptown community organization has raised eyebrows as construction continues on the Wilson Yard site at W. Montrose Ave. and N. Broadway St.

While retailer Target has confirmed they intend to open a store at the Wilson Yard site, everyone knows nothing is done until it’s done."

For the record, Wal-Mart and the alderman's office deny that Wal-Mart is coming to Wilson Yard and say that the timing of the donation to the "I Am You" program at 1007 W Lawrence is simply a coincidence.

The reader who made us aware of this story says: "This article further confirms how Wilson Yard is shrouded in mysterious, back room decisions. All we truly know about Wilson Yard is it has become the largest public works project for segregated subsidized housing on what was promised to be Uptown's retail revival. The Wilson Yard story demonstrates how an alderman, a developer, and a mayor can manipulate and abuse a community to serve their own agendas."


  1. I REALLY doubt Shiller would want WalMart in Uptown. The outcry from the left wing labor supporters and from those who want a Target would be loud and vicious.

    This is likely just a coincidence. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Except in the mouth of Rush Limbaugh. That's a shout out to Chip Douglas.

    While WalMarts ring the city of Chicago only one Walmart is actually within the city.

    Walmart wants to open more city stores. Some alderbeasts want them in their wards. The other aldercritters object because of fear of a Union led backlash.

  2. So that is what the deal is:

    - Say Target is coming so you can get the store portion.
    - No wonder Target won't put up a sign.
    - Low and behold it's really Wal Mart but they don't want to be named yet because they don't want the SEU all over Shiller and Holstein.

    I am just saying sounds like something the Aldercreature would do.

  3. This is ridiculous! The money was donated to the I AM YOU program at the Red Dot Boutique.

    That has nothing to do with Wilson Yard.

    Somebody was really bored and felt the need to make up some crazy rumor.

  4. It would be great to have a Wal-Mart in Uptown ...the have low-low prices on everything from electronics to groceries. And they are doing much better than Target...I mean why should Target open another store when sales at its existing stores are dropping by over 5% Year on Year ?

  5. Sometimes a cigar is a cigar, and sometimes its an instrument of sexual satisfaction.

    I'm not sure what Shiller plans to do with this cigar, but her constant shroud of secrecy about something which should be public causes us to let our horrific nightmares run wild.

  6. Green Giant,

    You're probably right, but this is how development works in Chicago. Mysterious donations are made to various charities and groups and then BANG! a zoning change or plan approval comes from on high.

    In an non-corrupt city you'd be right to assume there is nothing strange here. But this is Chicago, and donating to an Alderman's favorite charity is akin to applying for a permit.

  7. Perhaps it's just my sense of how politics is played, but talking quietly to WalMart on the side and this pledge could easily be simply to leverage against Target - "if you don't do it, we have someone who will" rather than leave them holding the viability over the head of Wilson Yard in negotiations. Puts the hammer back into the hands of the alderman and developer.

  8. her constant shroud of secrecy about something which should be public causes us to let our horrific nightmares run wild.

    Absolutely. I believe a Walmart in Wilson Yard is one of Ald. Shiller's nightmares.

    Yet we, the community, have no proof one way or the other that it is, or isn't, coming. Same thing with Target. This information should all have been made public, with supporting documentation, a long time ago. Instead,Holsten and Ald. Shiller are treating the free flow of information as if they're holding atomic bomb codes.

    I hope everyone who's upset by the lack of disclosure with Wilson Yard has sent a quick email to Ald. Scott Waguespack in favor of TIF transparency.

  9. FYI: The person(s) that developed the Wal-Mart on the West Side are rooted right here in the 46th Ward.

    This is just a loose string story. Wal-Mart has smaller battles it can probably win in other parts of the city. Here would be a major war.

    The Lakefront liberals would set new personal bests for amount of time spent in, near or around a Wal-Mart to defeat it.

  10. WalMart wants to open more stores in Chicago. So far the sites talked about are all on the west and south sides of the city.

    Perhaps WalMart is hoping Shiller will vote to allow them to open such stores. The city council stopped WalMart from opening such stores a few years ago. A donation to an Uptown charity might be welcomed by Saint Helen of the TIF.

    I have a real hard time seeing Shiller wanting a WalMart to open at Wilson Yard. It would be the end of her political career. Of course her political career might be over, but the "idea" of WalMart might slow any more nasty gentrification around here. So many choices for the AlderRoyalty to consider.

    Target is seen rightly or wrongly as having more "prestige" than WallyWorld. I view Target as WalMart with better marketing, but since I've only been in Target a few times and Walmart one time what the hell do I know? People who know more than me claim that based on goods and customer service Target is better.

  11. But if Walmart comes it will put all those makeshift Obama merchandise sellers out of business! Why pay 99 cents for a "Change" t-shirt when I can get it at Walmart for 98 cents? 1 cent? Now that is "change" I can believe in!

    Come to thing of it 98 cents still sounds a little high. I will stick with my Palin wall poster, I got that for free.

    Could you imagine Chip Douglas and Irish Pirate greeting fellow Uptownians as they walk through the door? Chip refusing to point someone to the left, Pirate refusing the right?

    I still think putting a bulls eye (Target sign) anywhere near that corner will be asking for trouble.

  12. Nothing would surprise me and she voted with Daley for WalMart.

    WalMart has the money to build they are the only retailer actually doing well.

    Plus Target has stores in close proximity.

    Who knows it just seems real funny no sign, and they aren't building the retail portion so that would tell me it's not a done deal with Target.

    Also Wal-Mart would fit perfect there with a steady supply of workers living next door to the store.

    All I know for sure is they are building 400K plus units for low, very low, no income required housing the proof is the frantic pace it is being built when I go by it every day.

  13. Wow. The rumors are flying today!

    I am with IP and others who cry "foul" on this conspiracy theory. On the other hand, it is a well known fact that corporations use their charitable donations to achieve PR ends. Wal*Mart was a tough sell in Chicago. However, if you look at national sales figures Wal*Mart is besting their competitors who were allowed to set up shop here. Seems to me that Wal*Mart is looking to expand its footprint in this market and this donation was not only a nice thing to do (and a tax deduction) but a gentle tip-of-the-hat to our alderman.

    I don't think Shiller would support a Wal*Mart in her ward but since everyone in the local media and at city hall still considers her a radical, she would be a useful person to get on the Wal*Mart bandwagon as they develop a new strategy to woo Chicago.

    On another note, can anyone make a good argument for why Target is that much better than Wal*Mart in terms of treatment of line workers/environmental impact/global purchasing policies and such? I'll grant that Target merchandises really well but is it really fair to consider one evil and another good?

  14. I just love WalMart's slogan: "Save More, Live Better" Who is living better? Surely not the WalMart employees that are paid minimum wage, well below what they would need to survive in the real world. And with all the lawsuits against WalMart for their countless pushing around of those poor employees those wages won't increase anytime soon. On the bright side, those employees would be eligible for the WY apartments. Although just barely as they are almost too wealthy.

  15. I decided to do some quick googling to answer my own question.

    I came across this article reprinted from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

    Target vs. Walmart

    I'm not trying to push any perspective here. I just thought I'd share what I found. I did, however, find it interesting that a Target spokesperson was on record as saying that Target "simply doesn't believe that third-party representation would add anything for our customers, our employees or our shareholders. We just do not believe it's productive and adds value." I'll bet that raises the ire of the SEIU who put the pro-union question about Wilson Yard on the recent ballot.

    On the positive side, Target does have that redcard donation program to local schools and gives weekly to local charities. If some kind of deal has to be worked out with WY, I wonder if the FWY attys could figure out a way to negotiate a structure for these gifts so that they go to things that might have otherwise been paid for out of the TIF or aldermanic menu funds (such as streetscaping)but cannot be done because of the cost of WY?

  16. If they don't like thier pay level they can get a job somewhere else. Should a Walmart greeter be taking in $80K a year? Givr me a break.

    Most unions only cause businesses to DRASTICALLY overpay for labor.

    (There goes my shot at alderman.)

  17. Wal-Mart and Target are the same as far as I am concerned. There critical difference is Wal-Mart shows up to the party with 100 cents. Target shows with 25 cents.

    The SEIU stands opposed to both. Neither retailer is friendly to unions for the very reason that unions can't deliver to Target and Wal-Mart employees what the employees cannot deliver themselves.

    And by employees I mean associates.

  18. But this is Chicago, and donating to an Alderman's favorite charity is akin to applying for a permit.

    Comment of the week!

    Surely not the WalMart employees that are paid minimum wage, well below what they would need to survive in the real world.

    Does one make enough to survive in the real world when they're unemployed?

    Not so much to defend Wal-Mart, but they did just throw some coin into a local charity, didn't they?

    Chuck, how do you feel when a large organization takes a little from those people under its auspices and then gives some of that cash to an unconnected entity who might not be able to survive without the donation?

    Think about that, and then tell me how you feel about the Federal stimulus package.

  19. Wal-Marts have a notorious reputation mainly for the overpowering of the old "Mom and Pop" stores and their "We want you to do EVERYTHING with Wal-Mart: Shop, Eat, Bank, Medical". Some people feel comfortable getting their stuff on the cheap that way. They aren't breaking any rules, but they also have a really ruthless operating model that takes advantage of everything possible and gives up as little of itself as it can in return. In short, capitalism at its finest.

    Other stores, like Trader Joes, resemble Wal-Mart in the early days when taking care of the employees was top priority - but they do not include unions as well (they pay better than union wages).
    But they have a great rep.

    Hard to say.

  20. Yes, Jason, they can choose from the many we have available at this very moment. Please. No one (read: me) said they should go union and make 80k, but way to slide down the proverbial slippery slope and make dignity sound shitty. You're a real man after the Republicans heart with that statement. But anyone who knows Walmart and the way they operate knows that it is their insistance on unreasonably low prices that have caused so many American jobs to be outsourced overseas. You do your research and you will see that they demanded so much from their suppliers in way of discounts that these businesses had to relocate out of the country to comply or lose the business and, for many, their own business. Walmart is a heartless corporation that doesn't give a damn about its employees or this country beyond what dollar they can make. And for you to equate a living wage with 80k and a union job is crap.

    Sorry, you struck a nerve with that one.

  21. "WalMart employees that are paid minimum wage, well below what they would need to survive in the real world."

    This real world you speak of will not exist in two years when the market gets flooded on account of inflation. The money that is being printed right now is being set aside for that sole purpose.

    I read an article the other day about the 8%+ unemployment rate and the fact that in the black community is is over 13% and climbing. I am sure some of these people would be happy with any job, let alone a job we deem not good enough for them.

    Americans need to change the way we think, and role up our sleeves even if that means taking a second job at Walmart or Target for near minimum wage. Remember people who work at these locations choose to work there, so lets stop patronizing them and let them be proud that they have a job.

  22. Folks, look at the footprint of what is left of the land after the residential portion of Wilson Yard is complete. A Walmart store and its parking lot would take up the entire parcel of land. They'd never agree to only a portion of 6 acres. Would never be profitable! They have laid the base for a construction crane on the supposed Target side of the property. With the FWY lawsuit coming up, the building should be done way ahead of schedule!

  23. Hey Chuckie, You ever been to a Chicagoland WalMart? LIke on Touhy Ave. These are some of the most ignorant, lazy people I have ever seen. I have to wait 20 min to have 3 flunkies tell me 3 different answers about a product. This is a perfect, real life argument against minimum wage. Pay these flunkies what they are worth, about $1.65 an hour. The WalMart on Hwy 50 in Lake Geneva has fully competant, helpful, clerks who truely provide a service.

  24. Like when i worked for Dominicks, Deli section or as we called it Deli Hell. We were treated like shit and we were Union, the UCFW, United Food and Commercial Workers Union. What a joke it was nothing more than a legal shakedown of the employees. The union was an arm of the company. All you people are in love with this bullshit notion of "UNION", well it dont exist. They are as bad as the company. Get a clue and real job in the real world and find out. Why do you think that McCormick Place is loosing millions and millions in trade shows? Well how bout an exhibitor having to pay a $100.00 work order for a Union Electrician to put a plug into a socket which takes 3 seconds to do. Or a Union Plumber filling up a bucket of water to pour into a machine tha the operator can do but can't because of UNION rules at McCormick Place. Lets not mention all of the LOST product after the show. UU if you can handle the truth leave this post up, but I somehow think you won't.

  25. UU if you can handle the truth leave this post up, but I somehow think you won't.

    Enforcer, I don't know why you think you're the big bad Clint Eastwood impersonator here, but this is the deal: play nice with the other posters, stay away from bigoted statements and excessive profanity, and you're good to go. It has nothing to do with whether or not "we can handle the truth" (which actually made me giggle, thanks!)

  26. Clint Eastwood? - No.
    Jack Nicholson? - Yes.

  27. Everything in moderation.

    Pro-union or anti-union, I think that most reasonable people fall into the middle. My dad is in the postal worker's union, and I don't think they are a "bad" group.

    Unions can serve a purpose, the trick is to get reasonable people on both sides of the table.

    Regarding wal-mart, I recommend that everyone watch "The High Cost of Low Prices" if you haven't already seen it. It is a fantastic documentary on the retail giant.

    I don't know that I believe wal-mart is pure evil, but I do think it is wrong to effectively deny employees the right to unionize if that is what they want. This is what Wal-Mart does time and time again.

    Call me a defeatist, but I am about done worrying about Wilson Yard. I feel like all the cards are in the lawsuit and its do or die time. They are working at a frantic pace to get it up before the lawsuit is resolved. If it is resolved and the money is already spent, what will be the result?

    On the bright side, when the economy is in the tank, politicians are at their weakest. Now is the time to attack. The more angry people out there, the more you can recruit to "fight the good fight". The problem is, I don't even know what the good fight is or where to line up?

    If the people of Chicago really want change, they have to do more than just want it. We have to find a way to unify behind a single banner or idea. We have to have strong leadership and community support. People on the streets. Hope is not a strategy.

    The problem is that Chicago is so corrupt, from what I see, it makes it nearly impossible to do this. Leaders are torn down over some small mistake or misdeed, people are harassed by those that stand to lose the most, etc. I have lived here less than a year and I have seen and read enough of the stories of excessive inspections, mysterious parking tickets, etc. Unfortunately for Chicago, the unemployed, hungry, and pissed off people have more time on their hands to deal with bureaucratic BS. Hopefully leadership will emerge to fight this fight.

  28. Hello,

    Chuck, it cracks me up that you call me a republican. (You didn't really call me one, but you alluded to it.) Democrats and republicans are the same. They have only an agenda, they care not what is sane.


    Your post is absolutely correct. Just be less hateful in your posts.

    Funny story,

    I am a lawyer, and I used to work in an office. Well, the drain in the break room got clogged...and caused the sink to overflow. After 3 weeks of waiting for the unions to figure out how to get it fixed, I brought out my pipe wrench on a weekend and fixed it in about .5 hours.

    I was a hero on the floor, but my can imagine what happened when the union folk found out about it.

    Also, if people have one thing to blame about city services, you can blame one thing. The unions. (Except for maybe the Fire Department Union, and the Police Union to a lesser extent.)
    Most other City union employees cannot read, write or think for themselves.

    The bad thing is when I find one, they get overloaded with work.

    Unions are a cult religion....


    Sorry if I struck a nerve, it is nothing personal. By the way, I voted for Obama!

  29. Oh,and to UU, YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH! ;-)

  30. I think that we as a society either demonize or lionize unions(obviously depending on which side of the aisle you're on). Unions, per se, are neither good nor evil. They're just a group of workers bargaining collectively for better pay and benefits. Sometimes everyone has to put all their chips in the middle to get things done.

    The trouble is, many of Americas unions have grown far beyond that and enforce policies to shakedown their members and prevent competition in the marketplace(the IBEW is notorious for working hard to make sure hard working immigrants can't become electricians and drive down their price of labor)

    These same qualities hold true for corporations. A corporation is nothing more than a legal agreement to facilitate the raising of capital and the limiting of risk. Some corporations are good, and some are bad.

    I think many people, myself included, feel like Wal Mart falls under the heading of a bad corporation.

  31. So if WalMart moves in, what happens to Aldi's, since most of the WalMarts I have seen (OK, only two) sell groceries of some sort. I don't see any reason why this one would be different, considering the size of the area it's going to occupy.

  32. Enforcie, It's Chuck.

    Jason, I am ardently against unions. They are a disease for business. And do very little good and much too much harm. I was in no way advocating for unions in WalMart. I was, however, advocating for fair wages and dignity for workers. Something WalMart knows nothing about. Also, I didn't take your post personally, but thanks for the clarity. It's nice that we can banter in this forum and air what bugs us. I didn't vote for Obama. Separate but equal just don't cut it in my book. And Chicago politics shouldn't be spread all willy-nilly like that.

  33. Pay a good wage; treat your employees as you'd like to be treated. This was Dad's HR philosophy and whenever the union came around to organize our employees through them off the property. They seldom made it to his office.

    I doubt either WalMArt or Target would be accused of this.

  34. Bradley, I don't want to split hairs but I will anyway, I think you meant "threw."

  35. Chuck,

    I didn't understand your seperate but equal comment.

    I am not against the concept of unions but I am convinced that they are trained by union leaders not to work. Especially in the government.

    Unions are kind of like organized religion. (I just watched Religulous (SP?) so I am on this kick.) They just manipulate their followers.

    I do agree that one should treat their employees well. One needs good employees to stay.