Walmart recently unveiled a grand proposal to add 25,000 square feet of space to its 1300 Desplaines store.

If Walmart is to move forward with its plans to offer fresh produce and groceries, which the expansion will provide space for, it needs the planning commission and the village board to OK variations to the village code.

Walmart should be able to get the variations it wants; after all, it is a good earner. 21.4 percent of the sales tax collected by the village thus far for fiscal year 2011 came from Walmart. What’s more, they’ve been good for about 20 percent, annually, for the last seven years.

What Walmart, and the village board, should take into consideration are some changes that Walmart can make.

Walmart probably won’t allow the employees of its Forest Park store to unionize, since it has largely managed to maintain a global empire free of organized labor. But, how about bumping the starting pay of non-managerial employees?

If the expansion happens, the addition is supposed to bring 107 new part-time jobs, according to the proposal submitted to the village.

But, those jobs will probably be non-managerial, hourly positions; and, a Walmart employee at the store told the Forest Park Review that many of those starting positions pay minimum wage. That’s $8.25 per hour if Walmart is abiding by state law.

After trying to contact Walmart several times, Bill Wertz, director of community and media relations, eventually responded: “I can tell you that in Illinois the average wage for regular, full-time hourly associates is $13.13 per hour.”

Not bad. But, what about the starting pay of the new part-time workers who might be hired at the Forest Park store? What about non-managerial employees at the store; both part-time and full-time?

“It’s not something we usually talk about,” Wertz said.

Walmart’s representatives wouldn’t elaborate on what the lowest-paid employees at the Forest Park store are making, or what the new part-time positions will pay. We asked, but received an ambiguous, statewide average of what full-time, hourly workers earn, in response.

According to a 2011 study by The Pennsylvania State University, living wage for, say, a single mother with one child, residing in Cook County, is $18.13 hourly. The study calculated the hourly rate that a full-time worker must earn to support his or her family and remain above the poverty line, depending on where they live.

Walmart is not be the only business in town that is reportedly paying its workers minimum wage, but Forest Park’s mom and pop shops did not see $14 billion in profits in FY ’10.

We appreciate the revenue that Walmart has contributed for the last 16 years, and we applaud its initiative to provide customers with healthier food options. Furthermore, the company should also be commended for improvements to its health and financial benefits.

Walmart can continue its path of social responsibility by paying a living wage to new and existing employees, both part-time and full-time.

This is an issue that our state and national legislators eventually need to address; but, our local politicos should consider it before granting the variations.