Wage News: Winding from Chicago to LA

By September 14, 2006Economy

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley proved a tough politician this week in vetoing the “Big Box” bill that would have required large retailers to pay a minimum wage and benefits of $13 an hour if they wanted to locate in the city. Yesterday, the City Council failed to override him, gettingly only 31 of 50 votes.

Shopfloor.org has reported previously on these ill-conceived, big-labor initiatives to punish succcessful retailers. In July, a federal judge struck down Maryland’s law requiring Wal-Mart — and only Wal-Mart — to provide health-care benefits or pay into a special fund, because the law violated federal ERISA pre-emption.

Despite the protests of labor, some members of the increasingly odd Chicago City Council, and radical activists like ACORN, Daley’s veto is proving popular with local consumers and jobseekers in low-income neighborhoods that could benefit from a new Target or Wal-Mart. And Daley has been aggressive in defending his position. At a high-spirited rally Wednesday, he declared:

“It was all right for the North and Southwest sides [of Chicago] to get big boxes before this. No one said anything. All the sudden, when we talk about economic development in the black community, there’s something wrong. … This issue defines whether or not you stand for economic development on this site or are you going to let this site stand idle? That is unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, in California Wednesday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a law very much like the Maryland bill.

“Singling out large employers and requiring them to spend an arbitrary amount on health care does nothing to lower costs or guarantee that even one more person has health care coverage,” Schwarzenegger said.

Correct, and a mark in the Governor’s favor. Unfortunately, the day earlier, the Governor signed into law a bill giving the state the highest minimum wage in the country, deepening California’s economic death wish. Economic development mavens around the country are updating their recruitment letters at this very moment.

UPDATE: Speaking of tough, George Will’s latest column, written from a Chicago suburb, is on the politics of Wal-Mart.

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