Chicago Sun-Times
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Mayor Daley Accuses Union of Dissing Blacks

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Organized labor got a lashing from Mayor Daley yesterday as he announced his first-ever veto.
The mayor suggested that race was at the root of the union's effort to force Wal-Mart to pay its employees above the minimum wage. Is he off-base, or is he exposing organized labor's discriminatory treatment toward blacks?

"Not one mayor or alderman has ever been threatened in the suburban area...Only on the West Side. Only on the South Side..."It was all right for the North and Southwest sides [of Chicago] to get big boxes before this..."

If Daley is wrong about the union's motives, then why wasn't this an issue when so-called big box stores went up in predominantly white areas of the city?

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I think the Mayor is right on this issue, but my question is why would it only be for the south and west side? Why should people be upset that economic development is on the south and west side? Those people need jobs. They also need a place to shop. Actually, when they started giving the big box stores a hard time I was quite surprised. How ignorant is that? Do we want to stifle development in the city of Chicago? Do we want these poor people to sit and not work because they can't get jobs near their homes? Why would anyone want that?

Daley is smart to use the race card because that works just about every time. He'll get his way. The stores should be built and the people provided with places to shop and work. What is so difficult about that concept?

It is not only racial, though the Mayor decided to frame the issue that way to generate support.

In today's economy people want and need two things; entry level employment to stay of of welfare or as a part time job to supplement income, and low cost goods to strecth the family budget.

The so called big box stores provide both. If people are so against these stores than why does it take me so long to find a parking place at Target, or to check out at Home Depot?

These stores also provide needed tax revenue; property taxes, income taxes from employeess, and sales taxes.

The big box stores are an economic fact of life. We can love them or hate them, but they are here and provide a plus.

Mary, I don't know if the Mayor is sincere or not in his comments. Only he knows...But I do know this. YES, alot of these union chiefs have been unfair to young African-Americans. Mary, I've emailed you several times over the last 2 or 3 years and you know I have. I've told you that especially the TRADES unions have been very unfair in giving young people of color there fair share of the apprenticeships. Have I not mentioned that? And I've also said because these unions chiefs are partisan workers for a political party (democrats) people look the other way and stay somewhat quiet. And by people I mean the big-name Black Leaders. Mary, where am I wrong? Remember a little more then a year ago when I emailed you and told you I walked around the Loop and Near NorthSide and observed all the different construction projects going on? And that I counted the number of black workers on my fingers. But because the bigshots in the unions have always pushed democrat candidates everybody (liberals and black leaders) stays quiet. Alot of these union chiefs are more mgt. then mgt. Do you know 3 union chiefs receive more then $300,000 a year. That was mentioned on a radio show this morning... I'm sure alot of folks on BOTH sides don't like what I've just said but its the truth.

I wonder why the mayor isn't as emotional and forceful when it comes to educating the people from the neighborhoods he is supposedly protecting. The academic level at the schools in these neighborhoods is horrendous, but nobody is saying a thing about that. (Alderman Solis should be outraged at the academic level at Benito Juarez high school. He instead is kissing up to his papi, the mayor.) If I were in some of these neighborhoods, I would want something more than merely an entry-level paying job, and those are only available through education. I think the aldermen who switched their votes have sold their people out.

Yes, organized labor engages in racist practices. But spiting organized labor by siding with horrible companies like Walmart is not the way to go. These few entry level jobs are only crumbs being thrown at the people in the impoverished neighborhoods. If they want real economic development, then I say build quality schools in these neighborhoods. Fight to attract better paying jobs into these neighborhoods. If you ask me, the people in these neighborhoods will be pacified for awhile, and they will realize that working for a big-box company who gets rich by exploiting its workers is not all it's cracked up to be. By then, it will be too late.

Thank GOD Mayor Daley used his veto. Yes he is right about the unions. How many union heads are people of color? What percentage of union members are people of color? We all know the numbers are small. When the unions state that they have a greater chance of winning this in the city, what they are really saying is that we can intimidate the leaders in the poor city neighborhoods who fear losing their jobs (look at the alderman who wished for a larger crossover vote to avoid having so few alderman targeted). The unions speak of a living wage in these communities to pull people out of poverty. Why don't they put union training programs in high paying trades in these neighborhoods instead? When did they become concerned about us? Are do they see us as expendable in their war to unionize the big boxes. Everyone supports a living wage, but reality states that you have to start somewhere. Better to have a store that provides jobs, tax revenue, an yes, affordable prices, rather than take the only thing the unions are offering. NO JOBS, NO TRAINING, NO HOPE.

The people LOST in this whole debate were the chronically unemployed. Nobody wanted to hear from the ex-offender who appealed to me to help defeat the Big Box Ordinance for IT WAS his entry level job at WalMart that kept him from going back to jail.

He and his wife had entry level jobs; they worked hard and got promotions; save their money; moved into better housing; and now he has a legitimate lawn care and catering business; ALL from money he saved from hi entry level job at WalMart. If people would hear more of that, then it would have diverted from continually watching people WITH incomes hold up jobs from so many WITHOUT.

The real victory in all this are the chronically unemployed. I risked my own personal job and financial support to stand up for the chronically unemployed. Did anybody else in this fight GIVE UP any money while tney delayed others from access to these entry level jobs?

Time to look at the next generation leadership. Now look how chronically unemployed people have Mayor Daley to thank for there new chance at working.

Mark S. Allen
Founder/President, BLDI

as much as i hate agreeing with Daley...

The mayor says the unions are dissing blacks. What they're really doing is 'using' blacks without providing much in return, just like the mayor always does. Hah! Darn if that ain't that the pot calling the kettle black.

Since this argument hinges on one section losing out over another, I'm sure you'll all now join in the call for a national increase in the minimum wage. Right?

actually, the only reason "The big box stores are an economic fact of life" is because Ronald Reagan de-clawed all the anti-monopoly regulations that the working man fought & died for back in the days of Standard Oil and the other robber barons.

I wonder, do any of you folks supporting Wal-Mart for jobs ever consider the plight of the Chinese laborers that Wal-Mart creates?

The irony here is awful, one group of economically struggling people is supporting a business that single handedly creates another, much larger, group of economically oppressed people.

The chronically unemployed IMO have to get past the idea that work is going to come and show up and their door. The rest of us go out and look for jobs wherever they may be, we don't sit around complaining there's no work in our neighborhood, jeez, I haven't had a job in my own neighborhood since I was 16!

I was a former union organizer and representative so I did see some of the discriminatory practices of unions. This involved discriminatory hiring practices rather than plain racist actions towards members and potential members (afterall, unions have progressed in terms of racism over the years). Unions continue to discriminate towards hiring woman, and many locals I'm sorry to say, do not have minorities in positions of power. But, thankfully all of this has been changing over the years. Finally, I also believe that unions are similar to corporations in the sense that they need people buying into their idealogy to survive and they need the numbers to show it (high membership totals).

With all this said, I believe that Daley is just using and pointing his fingers at unions. He doesn't want to admit how he was pressured by big business in his "big box" veto, so instead he puts the blame on racism and unions. Even with all their problems, unions are not the problem, and in many ways they have been the solution. They have been some of the first people to fight for a living wage and they also are the voice of the working poor. What people need to understand, including Mr. Daley, is that having a job is not enough. Anyone can have a job, but will it pay the bills? Companies like Walmart have taken advantage of the working class as both consumers and employees. It's about time they give back something to the community, and I'm not talking about a contribution to Rainbow-Push...Afterall, if it wasn't for us, how would they ever make their money to influence politicians like Mr. Daley?

Good day Mary,

How about we discuss what U.S Senator Obama has done to advance the civil rights movement?

or what has he done for the people of this state outside of the recent bill that was passed?

I'm really curious to know if someone really knows about accomplishments.


A good place to start would be Obama's memoir: "Dreams of My Father."

How can Daley comment on racism, when both he and his Dad have practiced it for years themselves?

As to why this wasn't an issue before, I'm sure Mary or some good journalists could investigate why the supporters decided to do this now.

But are blacks to believe Hizzoner is helping them by uncovering some nefarious conspiracy against development in their community?


As you know, when something like this happens, there is rarely a true conspiracy afoot. Still, to his credit, Mayor Daley has supported set-asides when other big-city mayors backed away, has confronted the construction industry, forcing them to file a lawsuit against the city, and continues to try to unravel the institutionalized racism that exists in the Chicago Fire Department.

Changing the culture of racism in this city is a marathon, not a sprint.

What racism in the fire department? Minorities with lower test scores get accepted on the fire department over whites who have higher test scores. The only people who get discriminated against by the fire department are whites.


The racism in the Chicago Fire Department has been so well documented, I'm not even going to waste my time arguing about it.

to RC: So you are worried about the plight of the Chinese workers that Wal-Mart creates...Well I hope Mary prints this one because I want to know where have you been....You only target Wal-Mart. Tell you what, how come you didn't bring up all the others? We know NIKE shoes are made in VietNam now because those greedy folks in Indonesia asked for a dime raise. The Vietnamese will stay at there sweatshop for 15 cents or so an hour 12 hours a day and ask no questions. Hey, why don't you criticize all those famous American basketball players who do NIKE commercials? Afterall, by doing these commercials they are endorsing the sweatshop tactics. Will you criticize that? Hey, have you looked where your Haggar pants, your shirts, and even your shoes are made nowadays? Look at the label sometimes and tell me the countries name? Hey, you do drive an American car, don't you? I mean you wouldn't be one of those folks in a Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagon, etc. are you? Although I admit more and more everyday even our companies are going beyond the border. Whose administration lobbied for and passed NAFTA anyway? Hint: It was the one BEFORE this one. And we know we can use a hundred other examples. Why today I was shocked to learn that Goodrich and Uniroyal are owned by the french. So don't only pick on Wal-Mart. Oh yeah, I also learned today Ford is closing 2 more plants. Maybe some of those folks can find work at a new Wal-Mart for awhile until something better comes along.

Mary, I think you are pretty awesome! I have heard you on the Scott Thomas show and even though I do not always agree you sure seem to be unbiased and fair, like a reporter should be. My comment is this: I remember back when the Wal-Mart issue 1st came up and some alderman said it was like "Slave Labor" Well maybe that is a good thing because now a lot of white people all over the country know what that is like, because they are working at Wal-Mart. They said that Wal-Mart was low paying jobs etc. Well OK I agree with that. My thought then is they should build nice proffesional building for Drs, Lawyers etc. and then put the "Help Wanted" signs out. That would be high paying jobs and the problem would be solved! When I was in highschool I worked at a low paying factory after school (a real sweat shop)But I made some money, learned a good work ethic and paid for night classes at the local college. I then moved up and then out of the company. Isn't that how it works?

granted no one wants just a low paying job but having wal mart, target, etc on the south and west sides makes it easy to find quality products. But mary, when will you post a blog about the silent black alderman in Chicago who continue to pimp us? I am tired of the black aldermen in this city who are just lapdogs for Daley. whatever happened to the summer job programs? each year our taxes go up, but where is the money going? I work hard for my money and would not mind seeing it go toward summer jobs, and actually putting some teeth in education. the teachers should not have to spend half the class trying to retstore order and then after school stopping fights.

Am I wrong or I thought that the whole idea of having a job is to become self supporting and to get off of welfare. According to a recent Suntimes article, Illinois paid 2.2 billion in welfare to low wage workers. Unfortunately, some of our ministers and politicians are for sale. Having an entry-level job may serve a purpose in the long run by providing people with some essential skills to get a better job, but it doesn't solve their short-term needs such as paying rent,utilities,& adequate healthcare. In the meantime, big corporations are taking the money out of our communities, paying off our ministers & politicians, and providing little hope for the working class. This is why it is so important that African Americans go to the polls.


O.K., I agree that everyone should be paid a living wage. But none of us make what the CEOs of our corporations make. Heck, I work for a company where the owners stole millions out from under the noses of a "reputable" board of directors. So let's be real. You had to start somewhere. So did I. Why aren't we putting our energy into pushing for a "living wage" for all Americans, not just those who work for Wal-Mart?

Hi Mary, I would like to comment on the big-box ordinance. I feel it's really a National problem regarding a raise in minimum wage set by the Federal/State guidelines. One state has a minimum of $5.50 an hour, while a neighboring state has a little higher rate. What the whole nation needs is a real living minimum wage. I wish, for once, these idiotic politicians would live for six months on a minimum wage, with no perks. Just for six lousy months, bend down to our level. Some of us use to make a reasonable wage, but the companies folded, etc. Skills that were in demand before the era of the desktop publishing - put a lot of people out of the printing businesses, for example. Either you're too old to go back to school, or even if you do, they consider you too old to take on a new career. Then we're left with these old Wal-mart jobs, that have now offered the lousiest health insurance, it would be better if people just stayed and paid into the medicaid system, if they return to work at minimum wage.

It's ridiculous for anyone to think you can require companys in a certain perimeter to pay much more, than in any other outlying area. The minimum wage is the problem and it affects everyone.

I also have read an interesting article in the Daily Southtown, by Phil Kadner, that I think is worth looking into:
I don't think either one of them are honest enough about the funding and fairness of schools. Please peak at it and I sure would like your comments on that article. I think it hits it right on the nail.


Thanks Jean...I'll give it a look.

If you have the cards, they must be played... Daley called this push by the unions and others, to support the big box ordinance a thinly veiled stab at racism. The suburbs are not complaining about their wages, nor are the north and central areas of the city finding fault. Need we say more? Now can we take a look a H.B. 4050 which changes mortgage lending rules in 10 zip codes of the South Side for four years. It is what it is!

Daley is also doing a great job of trying to drive Blacks and Mexicans out of Chicago through his complicity in the gentrification that is going on. I don't know what's going on in the Black neighborhoods, but in Pilsen, Alderman Solis is making out quite nicely. It's funny how they want the Mexican culture in the neighborhood (restaurants, museums, stores, etc.) but they don't want the Mexicans living there.

And just how has tricky Dicky Daley unraveled the institutionalized racism within the CFD?

Daley is running scared and as usual has the typical black ministers behind him yelling for Hizzoner to save them. Where were the same people when Daley's friends basically stole over $100 million dollars, Walsh Construction does not have as many blacks as they should working on their various projects, look at the city hiring practices, it is a joke that now blacks should be happy that WalMart and Target jobs are being passed out when higher wage jobs are really the key to people taking care of their families. How many people are taking trains FROM the burbs to work everyday? Look at the numbers. That should tell you something Mary.

Like Blagojevich, Daley is a crook. He's just trying to polish his image. Politicians can be trusted as far as a human can throw a supermarket.

Daley's made the right decision, but it would be wrong to suggest that unions are any more racist than the public at large. While there have been some very, very, positive effects of labor unions, there is also a dark side. In this case a helpful question might be, "Are unions really racist, or is it that they just don't care greatly about anyone who doesn't pay union dues?"

This is probably best exemplified by a quote attributed to Albert Shanker, of the American Federation of Teachers union, “I’ll start representing kids when kids start paying union dues.? (quote found on numerous web sources) I doubt Shanker hates kids. But in a choice between the interests of teachers and kids, Shanker makes it quite clear who he supports. I doubt our Chicago unions are any more racist than the public at large, but in a choice between the interests of the union members...

Economists call the use of government power to gain unfair advantage "rent seeking". Wikipedia defines it as "rent seeking is the process by which an individual, organization, or firm seeks to gain through manipulation of the economic environment, rather than through trade and the production of added wealth. Rent seeking generally implies the extraction of uncompensated value from others without taking actions which improve productivity, such as by imposing regulations or other government decisions that may affect consumers or businesses." (

Another classic example of union rent seeking is the plumbing code requirement to use copper or iron pipe. In most household applications, PVC, ABS and Cross-Linked Polyethylene (PEX) are far superior alternatives. Copper and iron will experience corrosion leaks, clogs and other expensive service requiring failures far more often. Not only does it fail more often, but is more difficult to install and service. PVC can be cut with an ordinary wood saw, while iron cannot. PVC can be joined with glue, while copper requires solder and a torch."

"The fire risk associated with plumbing materials lies in the tools that are used during installation. According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), torches, which are required to solder metallic plumbing systems such as copper, rank among the top-ten leading causes of house fires each year." according to Plumbing Contractor News (

While lead has been removed from plumbing solder due to brain damage in children, some of the metals commonly used instead are known to be carcinogens. Even copper itself can be a health hazard. This is why copper cookware is typically lined. (It is hoped that initial corrosion of the copper pipes will form a protective barrier.)

The better, safer, materials, while banned, are also much cheaper. At a local home store, the normal 10 foot length of 2" type L copper pipe was $138. At the same store, the normal 10 foot length of 2" schedule 40 PVC pipe was $5.38. (Normally, main lines would use 3" or 4" lines. But the help at the store suggested that these larger sizes were just too expensive for them to stock.) The difference in material costs alone, could easily add up to thousands of dollars for a typical house.

This is a problem for those who care about affordable housing for the poor and minorities. It makes a home more expensive to own and more expensive to maintain. Since the poor are least likely to be able to afford to pay for maintenance, they may try to do it themselves. While torches aren't expensive, having less experience, they may be more likely to start a fire. Even for poor renters, this is an issue, as anything that raises costs for the landlord ultimately gets passed on to the tenet.

What is particularly ironic is that Cook County has such a plumbing code while at the same time the top Cook County position was held by someone who was a minority. To Daly's credit, as a white guy he stood up for a minority interest while Stroger appears to have ignored one in the interest of politics. Even in the present race, there are some interests in the county that do NOT want reform.

Hey Mr. "Stop the corruption" guy,

Your blog was way too long. Try trimming it down to a novella next time OK?

I understand, when you can't win a debate go with the "I'm not going to waste my time" defense.


No, Jerry, it's just that you seem to have more time on your hands than I do.

john, I actually don't wear Nikes, and do my best not to buy sweatshop labor stuff, but I'll admit I'm buying some, these days you can't find a razor or something like that that isn't made in China.

but Wal Mart's issues go way deeper than simply their monopsyny practices (dictating prices to suppliers, which only a company with the shelf-space/marketshare of a Wal Mart can do), which is why the workers making their stuff are treated so lousy.

I absolutely agree NAFTA was a bust - did you know that Mexico (where our factories fled before they fled to China) slaps a 100% tariff on anything made in China?

I think it's time for people to wake up to the reality that there is (and never has been) anything even resembling a "free market." from the days of the railroads receiving millions of acres of land free to subsidies for drug companies, the only people expected to play under "free market" rules are laborers - white, black, you name it.

getting back to why we tend to single out Wal Mart, it's because they are so damn big that when they set up shop, soon communities start seeing huge drains on their welfare systems. my dad, a relatively conservative (meaning, he believes in a balanced budget, not a Bush-style Republican) guy, has shown me research about how in state after state, Wal Mart moved in, and health care costs to the taxpayers went up.

that's simply a fact, and I'm not aware of that same problem with any other chain.

we could go on about their union-busting, their contracting of illegal immigrant labor for janitorial work, the fact that many of their own employees can't even afford the comapny health plan, etc., if you'd like.

To all of you Daley supporters, this is what the coward's veto got the city:

"Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is pushing to create a cheaper, more flexible work force by capping wages, using more part-time workers and scheduling more staff on nights and weekends, The New York Times reported on Monday"

It's time to revisit this issue and push through the big-box ordinance.

speak of the devil, look what was ruled today:

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A jury in Philadelphia on Friday said Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's biggest retailer, must pay $78.47 million in damages to current and former Pennsylvania employees for forcing them to work "off the clock" or during rest breaks.

On Thursday, a state jury in Philadelphia found that Wal-Mart violated Pennsylvania labor laws by failing to pay employees for "off the clock" work or for rest breaks.

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Mitchell published on September 13, 2006 2:51 PM.

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