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CHICAGO -- The Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) here condemned the Chicago City Council's passage of a big box living wage ordinance on Wednesday, and called for Mayor Richard Daley to reject the decision.
"Mayor Daley, tear down this wall and veto the barrier to economic opportunity for all," urged IRMA president and c.e.o. David F. Vite.
Chicago's City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday mandating any retailer with at least 90,000-square-feet and $1 billion in annual revenue pay at least $10 an hour in wages and $3 in benefits to employees. These increase annually by the rate of inflation.
IRMA contended the ordinance will severely limit economic growth in the city and make Chicago an island of joblessness. "The Council just passed the biggest anti-jobs/anti-economic development proposal in the nation," Vite said. "The closed-for-business sign will be up in the City of Chicago without the intervention of Mayor Daley."
By placing such stringent demands on retail's largest stores, Vite said the ordinance will "certainly freeze future large store development in Chicago, negating new jobs and stifling economic development."
The trade association further contended the measure will not only mean fewer job opportunities, but also fewer places to shop and less tax revenue for the City of Chicago. It will also mean less work for the city's union construction workers, the trade group said.
It's the first ordinance of its kind in a major city and affects a total of 19 retailers, including Target, Sears, Home Depot and Bloomingdale's. If passed, the ordinance could jeopardize plans for three new Target stores, and it could also prompt Target to close its existing stores in the city.
Despite opposition by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, support for the big-box ordinance appears to remain strong in the council. The supporters of the measure said that urban markets have become so attractive to big retailers that the ordinance would not prevent them from opening stores in Chicago.