Wal-Mart Opens First Store in Chicago
Wednesday, September 27, 2006; 6:56 PM
CHICAGO -- The first Wal-Mart inside Chicago's city limits opened to shoppers Wednesday after lengthy political debate over the mega-retailer's wages, zoning and jobs.
Shopper Wanda Mendez said she was eager for bargains close to home and happy for the new jobs in the economically depressed West Side area.
"It's good for the neighborhood," said Mendez, who bought kitty litter and flea spray for her family's new kitten.
Wal-Mart's value to the area has been the central question in a fight between supporters who say the store brings much-needed jobs and opponents who counter that its discount buying power undercuts local businesses, its wages are too low and its benefits skimpy.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. started looking at Chicago five years ago and proposed two stores. Zoning changes were approved for the West Side store in May 2004, but plans for a South Side store were abandoned when aldermen refused zoning changes there.
In January, Wal-Mart instead opened a store literally across the street from the city limits.
Then in July, the City Council approved an ordinance that would have required the biggest retailers to pay employees at least $10 hourly _ plus $3 in fringe benefits _ by mid-2010. Mayor Richard Daley vetoed ordinance, and aldermen were unable to override his veto.
More than 15,000 people applied for the nearly 400 jobs at the store, manager Ed Smith said, adding that 98 percent of the employees live in the neighborhood.
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