Chicago Harper Lecture with Virginia Parks

The University of Chicago Alumni Association

October 8, 2014: 6:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Partnering against Poor Wages featuring Virginia Parks


theWit Hotel
201 North State Street
Chicago, Illinois

Event Details

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Walmart that opened in Chicago's Pullman neighborhood in 2013, mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the retailer's new location was "a vote of confidence in the future of the Pullman neighborhood, creating . . . good jobs for residents and economic opportunity." A multiyear campaign led by community and labor groups calling for Walmart to pay higher wages had preceded its first foray into the city, culminating in the mayoral veto of the Big-Box Living Wage Ordinance in 2006. Grassroots actors continued their demands for higher wages, and in 2010 mayor Richard M. Daley brokered a political bargain between labor groups and Walmart, with higher wages as a condition of its expansion to additional locations. In this lecture, geographer and former community organizer Virginia Parks uses the example of Walmart's expansion in Chicago to show how community groups attempt to influence wage and job standards in urban areas, a growing movement that includes the passage of minimum wage standards in San Francisco and Seattle.

Parks is an associate professor in the School of Social Service Administration, where she specializes in the study of urban inequality. Her teaching and research interests include urban labor markets, racial and gender inequality, immigration, urban politics and policy, and community organizing


$20/person for general admission
$10/person for recent graduates (College alumni of the past ten years and graduate alumni of the past five years)
Two complimentary registrations for members of the Alumni Leadership, Chicago, Harper, and Phoenix Societies
Includes program and refreshments


Register Online

Deadline: 10/6/2014


6:00 PM-6:30 PM: Registration

6:30 PM-7:45 PM: Presentation and discussion

7:45 PM-8:30 PM: Reception

Speaker Profiles

Virginia Parks (Speaker)

Virginia Parks is an Associate Professor at the School of Social Service Administration. Her fields of special interest include urban geography, urban labor markets, immigration, racial and gender inequality, residential segregation, and community organizing and development. She teaches courses at SSA in policy formulation and implementation and in community organizing and development.

In her research, Professor Parks analyzes the patterns and ramifications of spatial inequality, particularly as they manifest in urban environments at the intersections of race, ethnicity, and gender. Her primary interest is in how space and place bring about and mediate labor market outcomes, such as unemployment and low-wage work, for immigrants, native-born minorities, and women. A central concern informing Professor Parks's research and teaching is how local communities can respond to these patterns of inequality through various organizing and development efforts.

Professor Parks is a 2008-09 Russell Sage Visiting Scholar. Her project at the Russell Sage Foundation, with Dorian Warren (Columbia University), examines local political responses by communities of color to economic inequality and the plight of low-wage work through a comparative case study of two anti-Walmart campaigns: a campaign in Chicago, IL, that led to the passage and subsequent mayoral veto of the Big Box Living Wage Ordinance aimed at Walmart and the low-wage retail industry in 2006 and the zoning defeat of Walmart in Inglewood/Los Angeles, CA, in 2004. These cases reveal how, when, and with what success ordinary people--local residents and grassroots political actors--can exercise their political voice to influence urban economic development and the new economy of low-wage work.

Professor Parks received her Ph.D. in Geography and M.A. in Urban Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. Before her life as an academic, Professor Parks worked as a community organizer.


Kelly Doody