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August 10, 2006

Target Corp. Blackmails Chicago Over Wage Law- Take Action!

As Progress States highlighted a few weeks ago, the Chicago City Council approved a groundbreaking ordinance to require all large retailers in that city to pay a living wage of $10 per hour plus $3 in benefits.  

In retaliation, the Target Corp. is making a blackmail threat to cancel the opening of stores in three predominantly African-American Southside Chicago neighborhoods unless the mayor vetoes the ordinance. Advocates for the Chicago law are calling on allies to call Target's CEO and end this political bullying.  

Adding to community anger is the fact that Target already operates seven stores in the city and opened one in a a predominately white Northside community just two weeks ago, leading to charges of discriminatory redlining by the corporation.  

What makes it clear that the threat is political blackmail and not merely a calculated business decision is the fact that the company admits that its Chicago Lincoln Park store is its most successful in the country-- and economic analysts note that big box retailers have been pushing hard to get access to urban consumers in recent years: "I think Target is making these threats to try to scare Chicago into scrapping this law," said Annette Bernhardt, deputy director of poverty programs at Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School. "Everyone knows they'll expand into the city. That's where the untapped market is."

Target already operates stores in cities like Sante Fe and San Francisco which have comparable minimum wage rates of $9.50 per hour and $8.82 per hour respectively, so the argument that the marginally higher wage rates in Chicago will make or break the new stores in that city is just not credible.  

Advocates are especially suspicious since Target is aiming to intimidate predominantly black communities and elected leaders with its threat, paralleling nasty threats and racial manipulation by Wal-Mart during that company's campaign to enter Chicago and fight the new ordinance.  In fact, the parallel is so close that advocates challenging Target have dubbed the company "Tar-Mart" for resorting to the same kinds of heavyhanded tactics used by Wal-Mart that have angered so many community groups.

This is shaping up to be a defining political divide in the city, of grassroots forces mobilizng against an establishment, represented by Mayor Daley, too willing to accomodate special corporate interests.  From community groups like ACORN to the unions, activists see Daley giving into the threats by Target and Wal-Mart as open up what Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon labels "World War III" in the City.

To protest this heavy-handed blackmail, use these resources to call or write Target CEO Robert Ulrich to demand that he stops these threats against the poor communities of Chicago.

Posted by Nathan at August 10, 2006 08:44 AM