Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=153676
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Samantha Winslow/MEDILL

Abdul Jawan manages a food and liquor store in Austin where small businesses have suffered since Wal-Mart opened.


Study says Wal-Mart's promise of new jobs fell short on Chicago’s West Side

by Samantha Winslow
Jan 14, 2010


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A study released last week by the University of Illinois at Chicago and Loyola University said 300 full-time jobs were lost through store closings in the three years since Chicago’s first Wal-Mart opened in the West Side neighborhood of Austin. The study concluded that, despite the promise of economic development, Wal-Mart's presence was no economic panacea.

The 300 jobs lost--attributed to 82 store closings--are roughly equivalent to the jobs that Wal-Mart added to the area, the study noted.  Some West Side residents said they did not mind Wal-Mart having a store in their neighborhood and cited the benefits of low prices and the convenience of finding everything in one store.  

But Elce Redmond, an activist from the South Austin Coalition, said that while the coalition did not oppose the Wal-Mart being built in Austin, it wanted the company to pay higher wages, offer health benefits and allow its employees to form a union, none of which has happened.

To Redmond, the study reinforced his concern from the time of Wal-Mart's opening about possible reduced sales, job losses and store closings in the neighborhood. 

Abdul Jawan, manager of Renad Food, estimated a 25% decrease in sales since Wal-Mart opened less than a mile from his food and liquor store. He said he couldn’t compete with the company’s ability to buy in bulk and charge less for the same items. His store is on a stretch of North Avenue where boarded-up or empty storefronts dot the street.

The South Austin Coalition has active campaigns to address economic issues that have hit the West Side like rising housing foreclosures.  Redmond said the store closings and Wal-Mart low wages, are contributing to the area's problems:. “If you cannot feed your family, if you cannot pay your transportation costs, or your energy costs? What good is a job if it drives you deeper into poverty.”

 In an e-mail response to the report, Wal-Mart representatives questioned the study's conclusions and pointed to area store openings--including those of Chase, Bank of America and Aldi, a discount grocery store--as an example of factors that were not taken into account.