Where power lies

This is interesting.

CHICAGO (Reuters)—Chicago’s city council Wednesday passed one of the nation’s strictest “living wage” laws, requiring large retailers to pay escalating hourly wages and benefits.

Opponents said they would challenge the ordinance in court, arguing that it unfairly singles out retailing giants with more than $1 billion in sales, such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp.

The ordinance, which was approved by a 35-to-14 vote of the city’s aldermen, would require large retailers to pay a starting salary of at least $9.25 an hour and benefits of $1.50, escalating to $10 in wages and $3 in benefits by 2010 with cost-of-living increases beyond that.

I have always wondered if the differences between U.S. and Canadian municapality authority has any impact on outcomes. In the U.S., cities can levy income taxes, vehicle taxes, sales taxes, etc. etc. etc. It would seem, based on this article, that at least one U.S. city can actually set wage rates.

Canadian municapalities have far less direct control over their destiny.

I still don’t know if this means anything.

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0 Responses to Where power lies

  1. Anonymous says:

    It means a lot, that’s democracy for you. Commentors since the first western democracy have stated quite clearly that democracy can only survive in small local areas. That has since been pretty well born out.

    Where the democracy ceases, is as the article says-this will be challenged in court.

    It’s great you post stuff like this, even when you don’t know what it means (that’s not an insult, you said it yourself in case any commentors think I’m being too critical). Stuff like this is going on all over the states, you just never hear about it.

    There is a very good reason that the only two studies specifically dealing with a state or provincial government at the Atlantica website deal with Vermont. THere, local governance is at its more powerful. Irvings, investment banks, etc., don’t like when people can decide things for themselves.

    To repeat an earlier post, look at how the two LNG terminals were handled in New Brunswick and Maine. In NB the Irvings told city council to approve the tax deal on THAT DAY. Not only that, but NB only requires that Irving conduct all safety and environmental studies of the terminal. The province then bends over to accommodate them by reversing 40 years of provincial tax law, something derided even by the Financial Post, hardly a ‘left wing’ publication.

    All this for a terminal that from what I’ve heard employs many spaniards in its construction, and will result in the long term employment of only eight people, according to Irvings own newspaper.

    Switch to Maine, where local towns all along the coast held referenda on whether to allow LNG terminals at all (keep in mind Boston has closed theirs citing safety fears). They all voted against it except one.

    In order to get it approved there the company had to make big promises-because people were voting on it. They had to guarantee safety concessions, insurance for fishermen, profit sharing for the community, and 60 jobs beginning at at least 60 grand.

    And there are still numerous safety and environmental studies to be done, the next one by their coast guard. In fact, the biggest concern has been that the next level of studies aren’t ‘democratic’ enough because they are more like canadian governmental decisions where a small group makes the ultimate decision. However, it should be noted that the Coast Guard study will examine all aspects, from aesthetics to local public concerns. Anybody that thinks the Irvings holding two little advertised public meetings where they basically preach what they are doing is the same thing has never seen an american public meeting.

    Keep in mind that in Chicago, like most municipalities in the states, ‘representatives’ do not act in a similar way that canadian representatives do. There, they deal with an elected bureaucracy, not a hand picked one that is there in perpetuity. Anybody familiar with local government bureeaucracies can tell you just how maddening and anti democratic they can be (not all of course).

    But turn to a place like Vermont. If the townspeople vote to permit a Wal Mart in their area, as Bennington just did, and they find that just as protestors have predicted, it puts all the local businesses out of work, suddenly that town has no tax base. So to keep functioning, they can vote to increase the sales tax. In fact, in many areas they can not only increase the sales tax, they can force Wal Mart to not pass on those taxes back to the people (though that’s rare).

    A similar law was rejected in New Hampshire, some say its their libertarian bent, but the vote was quite close and just as likely it was the fact that it not only pertained to giant corporations, but to local and state governments, which would have raised taxes substancially.

    Returning to our great white north, none of this has any relevance at all because municipal governments are not even recognized in our charter. They are completely at the whim of our provincial governments. Essentially all they deal with is zoning and recreation even though they are the ones who have to deal with most of the social problems.

    Sorry for that lengthy reply, but this is an area of my chief interest. This blog may well state ‘its the economy stupid’, but one could add that even the economy ‘is politics dummy’:)

    Just as an aside, Vermont and Maine have very active living wage organizations at the state level, no doubt another reason their federal government is so keen to keep them in debt. That’s another issue, however, the Atlantica protestors have picked up on it, one wonders if AIMS and the other Atlantica people will pick up on an issue that actually helps maritimers.