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On Friday the City Council’s finance committee approved a proposed Walmart for the south-side neighborhood of Chatham, but not before some aldermen questioned whether the big-box retailer will live up to promises it made last month over wages and whether those promises are legally enforceable.
And to address those concerns, the retailer sent in senior manager of public affairs and government relations Gyata Kimmons—a former employee in the mayor’s office of intergovernmental affairs and former director of community affairs for Chicago's Olympic bid.
Some aldermen burst out laughing when Kimmons was asked to state his name for the record. Kimmons told aldermen that the big-box retailer plans to apply the agreements that were reached with the Pullman store to all stores in the “Chicago market,” which includes areas surrounding the city.
Alderman Joe Moore of the 49th Ward asked Kimmons if Walmart was legally obligated to follow through on those agreements.
“I’m not sure,” Kimmons told Moore. “I think it is legally enforceable. We have made the commitment that that’s where we’re standing on, and I would dare say that if we fell short of that commitment, that we’d have some very real issues.”
Ninth Ward alderman Anthony Beale stepped in to say that the vote aldermen took on the Pullman store included the wage agreements and is therefore binding.
Still, Moore asked for the city’s attorneys to come up with a legal brief that would determine whether the city can take the big-box retailer to court if it doesn’t pay up. Moore wondered out loud why the City Council was rushing to approve the Chatham store by next week, and that prompted the store’s chief proponent, 21st Ward alderman Howard Brookins, to butt in.
“How is six years a rush to anything?” Brookins asked.
In the end, Moore was the only alderman to vote against the store, and the plan now heads to the full City Council for a vote on Wednesday.
“Six years later, you finally got your way,” said committee chair and 14th Ward alderman Ed Burke to Brookins as the committee moved on to other items.