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The question going into Tuesday's Washington, D.C., city council meeting was whether the council would give big box workers a living wage or bow to Walmart's threats, and now we have the answer: The council bowed to Walmart's threats. Or else just didn't have a two-thirds majority in favor of workers at the biggest big box stores earning $12.50 an hour even if Walmart hadn't threatened to pull its planned job-killing, wage-depressing stores from the city.

In fact, in July, the bill passed by eight votes to five, just one short of a veto-proof majority. Tuesday, the veto override failed with just seven votes to pass the bill and six votes against, with Anita Bonds changing her vote in the wrong direction.

The coming weeks would be a really good time for any council members who voted against the Large Retailer Accountability Act and have mayoral ambitions to push some bills that would help the District's low-wage workers. Tommy Wells fits that profile, and has suggested raising the city's minimum wage to $10.25 an hour. Actually getting that passed would be a great start; extending paid sick leave to tipped workers would be another good step. The ball's in their court: Were the council members telling the truth when they said that they really wanted to help workers, but believed this specific bill was the wrong way to do that, or will they fail to take action on other measures to turn low-wage jobs into something you can live on?

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 02:01 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A sad demonstration of the power (10+ / 0-)

    of WalMart whose greed is unquenchable.

    People need to be reminded how much tax money each WalMart sucks up by not paying living wages and benefits to their employees.  We continue to subsidize them and I'm sick of it.

    There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

    by Puddytat on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 02:09:31 PM PDT

  •  Seriously depressing. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Puddytat

    I'd be inclined to work to throw at least the five out of office. If I lived in DC. Or someone wanted my help.

    The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march on Washington?

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 02:38:17 PM PDT

  •  Good. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WillR

    I wrote to Mayor Gray asking him to veto this bill. It's easy for white, well-to-do, urban progressives like me to turn our noses up at Wal-Mart. They aren't going in my neighborhood, I don't shop there anyway, and I'm sure the real estate could be used for something else.

    But I have transportation. I have no problem getting my prescriptions, getting fresh produce, lean proteins, or household goods within my budget. Those who depend on these stores, most of which are going into food deserts? They don't have my luxuries, and I can't in good conscience put my antipathy toward WalMart ahead of the single mother who can't afford a car and doesn't have anything other than fast food and corner bodegas to choose from.

    Unapologetic Obama supporter.

    by Red Sox on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 02:38:57 PM PDT

    •  ...And who can't afford to shop at WalMart... (2+ / 0-)

      ...because her shit job doesn't pay enough. Nice of you to be so concerned.

      •  If that's really your concern (5+ / 0-)

        then why not an across-the-board wage increase? Is a wage under $12.50 a magically better offer if the employer is one other than WalMart?

        Unapologetic Obama supporter.

        by Red Sox on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 02:57:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's easy for this to spread (4+ / 0-)

          You start with the big box stores and then other retail needs to compete for the best employees by bumping up their wages.

          If you're really a progressive, you'd know that's exactly how union wages promote overall better wages in communities overall and the decline of unions or RTW laws lead to depressed wages.

          It's the big box stores that are sucking up tax money to subsidize their low wage and no benefits workers.  Start there and watch wages go up in the whole community and your tax money going for other important things.

          I'm sick of subsidizing the WalMart clan so they can put more money in their ever greedy pockets at the expense of all of us.

          There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

          by Puddytat on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 03:37:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Why aren't small retail shops... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Bailey2001, Red Sox

            ...already trying to steal Walmart workers with higher wages?

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 03:47:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  so.....magic! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Red Sox
          •  The real question is why you single out one (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nextstep, WillR, Red Sox

            employer.  Your comments make your feelings clear:

            You don't care about workers so much as you despise Wal-Mart.

            LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

            by dinotrac on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 03:48:08 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It's not me (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              llywrch

              It comes from the WalMart workers I've been on the picket line with.  They understand, as you clearly don't, that WalMart is the biggest player in the low wage arena.  Unionization, local ordinances or whatever it takes to give people a living wage are going to make an enormous difference for workers in those communities as well as making  substantial difference in their own lives.

              Those workers talk about how humiliating it is for them to apply for food stamps, housing assistance, free lunch for their kids, and use those SNAP cards at the grocery stores even when they work another job in addition to the job they work at WalMart.  And then because even those programs don't really make their lives a sweet deal they have to stand in line at a food pantry so their kids can get some food when the benefits run out.

              Many of them talk about how things were when Sam ran the place.  I remember WalMart then, happily proclaiming US made products for sale and treating employees as something other than trash.  They know that changes to WalMart will affect ever other business.

              You might just want to check out the next picket at WalMart and talk to those workers yourself.  They'll tell you a lot about what it's like to work you butt off and still be poor.

              There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

              by Puddytat on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 10:38:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  How about community gardens and co-ops? (0+ / 0-)

        There are ways to fix this without running to the poisoners for supplies that may kill you and your children.

      •  If she can't afford to shop at Walmart (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Red Sox

        She sure as hell can't afford the over-priced and under-stocked convenience stores that are presently the only shopping option in DC's poorer neighborhoods. I'm not thrilled about Walmart coming to the District, but to suggest that it won't benefit residents in Wards 7 and 8, at least in the short term, is disingenuous.  

    •  Walmart kills jobs (3+ / 0-)

      Both in the retail sector and in the manufacturing sector. But thanks for your concern over the state of the poor. Thanks a lot.

      "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

      by Crider on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 02:52:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  too true... (4+ / 0-)

        And who ends up paying, whether  or not we shop there?  We do.  We're the ones who make up the difference, providing the health care and food relief while the Walton family shrugs its shoulders and shovels more unearned money into its pockets.  The Walton family has no decency, no sense of responsibility, no religious/charitable instinct or impulse to help others and no understanding of patriotism.  

        (Of course, once the Republicans cut food stamps and kill the Affordable Care Act we won't be making up the difference; the workers will have no health care and no food -- and if they lack sufficient savings, they'll lack a proper burial once their health and ability to cope is gone.  

        •  Now you just gave the Waltons another idea (0+ / 0-)

          for a business. As corpses cannot be left on the streets, so to speak, the Walton's can erect and run crematoriums and charge the government to clean up the corpses at the taxpayers expense. Well, at least a few new jobs will emerge.

        •  If a small retailer... (0+ / 0-)

          ...pays the same low wages, "We're the ones who make up the difference, providing the health care and food relief" for those employees.

          Why single out employees of Walmart and other big box stores for preferential treatment over, say, an employee at a mom-and-pop convenience store?

      •  Which still doesn't answer the question: (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        johnny wurster, Red Sox

        If your concern is for workers, why not an across the board increase?

        My bet is this:  You don't despise workers, but you don't really care about them. You do, however, despise Wal-Mart.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 03:50:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The subject was the big box living wage law (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dinotrac

          not $15 an hour for all.

          If you want me to argue about that, then perhaps try again. I'm sure you know best for poor people, too. More McDonald's, Burger King, and Walmart locations?

          "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

          by Crider on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 04:14:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  So, in your world, it's the people who complain (0+ / 0-)

        about Mal-Wart's cruel and unethical business practices and NOT the Walton's who use them to increase their obscene wealth? What do you do for the poor? Keep quiet about the way they're treated so as not to embarrass them?

        •  In my world, people apply better logic (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Red Sox

          I can see you are passionate about this issue, but, if workers deserve better treatment, why provide it only to Wal-Mart workers?

          I have trouble seeing how that makes sense unless helping workers is not the point.  If the DC city council were a labor union representing Wal-Mart workers, it would make all the sense in the world.

          They're not.

          A law aimed at Wal-Mart and only Wal-Mart is not formulated to help workers but to hurt Wal-Mart.

          LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

          by dinotrac on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 04:29:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Some sympathy.... (4+ / 0-)

      I have some sympathy for your point of view but you overlook some broader public policy issues.

      Walmart is a bad actor in our society and has to brought to heel, one way or another. They cannot be permitted to set the wage standard for the whole country, and buy and sell politicians at will.

      We have this same issue in urban Baltimore where WalMart is scheming to open its first store. A $12.50 big box wage wouldn't hurt the Walton family heirs one bit, and would be a real difference for the working poor in this city.

  •  $ talks......... n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tim DeLaney, Puddytat, Egalitare

    “The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor.” ― Voltaire.

    by LamontCranston on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 03:23:44 PM PDT

  •  Most of the country thinks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llywrch

    this was already resolved when it first came around and DC pretended to firm stand for all the cameras. It made headlines around the country, how DC took a stand against the evil Wal-Mart. It was all part of the usual game. Politicians, know the cameras only roll on the first take, then the American A.D.D. moves the cameras somewhere else, which frees up to politicians to suck up to power like they planned all along. A few maintain symbolic votes, protecting their job for the next election, but it was always in the bag for Wal-Mart.

    I'm just Double Tapped the hell out.

    by pajoly on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 03:33:45 PM PDT

  •  Another fine example of American exceptionalism. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    savannah43

    Take that, Putin!

  •  It was wrong from the start. Just raise the min (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WillR, llywrch

    wage for ALL employers to $12.50 or more to reflect the higher cost of living in DC compared to the lowest cost of living areas in the country.

    The special min wage for only Walmart forced them to fight this aggressively, as this would put them at a cost disadvantage not only in DC, but potentially in other parts of the country if repeated. Walmart already does business in places that have universal higher min wages than the Federal min.

    In addition, outlaw the practice of unpaid interns in all instances - as this is abused as a means to under pay.  In those cases where the intern does earn valuable experience, unpaid interns unfairly advantages those living in higher income families - as others cannot afford to work for free.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 04:15:25 PM PDT

  •  Ive said it before and will say it again (0+ / 0-)

    Even with Walmart's billions they can not afford to pay its workers a truly livable wage.

    Health care costs are just that expensive.

    Walmart's 17 billion a year profit is not enough to cover the health care costs of its  2.2 million employees + living costs.

    So which would you rather have 2.2 million people partially paying their own way.

    Or 2.2 million more unemployed.

    I am 100% pro raising minimum wage and mandating health care benefits. But there is a LIMIT to what even the  wealthiest business can afford.  

    Retail workers simply can not earn enough to afford a livable wage without government support.

    •  Workers should be able to support themselves (0+ / 0-)
      Retail workers simply can not earn enough to afford a livable wage without government support.
      If we're a service economy, and one of the largest chunks of service workers can't support their basic needs, doesn't that look like a huge problem for our country?

      I am for every attempt to do something about it, even if it seems unfairly targeted at a particular company.  This is something we really need to address.

      •  Kinda yes kinda no (0+ / 0-)

        The root problem is that a retail worker can not "earn" enough to survive.

        I use earn in the real world sense of the word. The product of 100% of a retail worker's labor is simply not enough to pay for their own life's expense.

        These jobs are place holders for people without enough skills to survive. We can not expect corporations to be able to pay a livable wage to them as they are not capable of producing a livable amount of goods.

        The result is that government is needed to subsidize these people.

        It is a fair argument to have. How much should the gov subsidize, and how much profit should walmart be able to get from this system.

        But you must have your ideas grounded in the reality that some of the workers just can not earn a livable wage.

        We accept that those with various mental and physical disabilities need help.

        The retail workers are just a step or two above that as far as productivity. They have not crossed the boundary to where they are self sufficient.

        •  This! (0+ / 0-)

          Indeed. You have explained this reality more succinctly than I have been able to in the past.

          Once someone is paid more than they earn they are in serious danger of losing their job - perhaps to technology. The speed at which the transition to technology replacing human labor occurs is substantially impacted by the cost of the human labor.

          For example, tending and picking strawberry fields is a hideous agricultural job that is largely done by humans without the aid of hardly any tools. I'm convinced that it's difficult, but not impossible, to develop a (cost effective) robot to do this work. As long as humans are cheaper than the R&D cost (taking into account time value of money) of developing such a robot, the R&D investment is not made. When that equation flips, the R&D will get done and strawberry pickers will be a thing of the past and the GentleHands Mark IV will pick all our strawberries - wandering the fields 7/24 with no breaks or reporting to work with a hangover. Even if strawberry pickers' wages aren't increased, the advancements in technology spurred by a myriad of unrelated development will reduce the R&D cost of developing the GentleHands Mark IV and the strawberry picker is eventually doomed just as telephone operators and elevator operators are few and far between.

          As a society, it seems critical that we focus on reducing the percentage of able bodied individuals who can't earn a living wage -- i.e., can't/won't produce at least as much as they consume.

          Education and expectation setting must be emphasized. I believe there are far too many people who, now that they are adults, are not able/expect to be sufficiently productive because when their minds were plastic as toddlers through high school (or so), they were not offered a good education and/or failed to be motivated to take advantage of same (generally the government is at fault in the former and parents at fault in the latter).

          •  A two sided problem (0+ / 0-)

            I agree 100% that we need to increase education so people are capable of earning a living.

            However in the modern age the level of human ability needed to earn a livable wage is increasing.

            This is an ironic and problematic twist.

            The main issue at hand is as you describe, we have created technology and efficiency so those on the lower end of human potential have no truly useful roles left.

            The equation has evolved from "can a robot do it cheaper" . To "can the robot do it cheaper AND maintain a profit that allows us to subsidize the displaced worker"

            There are no viable alternatives for the displaced workers.

            If a robot can do a job for  $10  and human labor costs $12

            previously we would say that  using the robot would save us $2.

            The problem comes now that since that worker is now useless we may still need to give that workers $5 to survive. costing the world $3 to use the robot instead of the human worker.

  •  Could we stop talking about "living wages"? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WillR

    The number of people who would have earned a "living wage" (whatever the hell that is) under this bill is zero, because Walmart wouldn't have opened its stores, and this bill was written in a way that only applies to Walmart (which is terribly bad policy IMHO). Not to mention that I know people who don't have as much money as I have for whom shopping at Walmart is a necessity.

    •  A living wage is BS (0+ / 0-)

      Let me explain a "living wage".  Here's the scenario: you have Bill and Julia.

      Bill: He works hard.  He's going to college as he works to pay his own way.  Very Admirable of him.  he earns $8.25 an hour crushing boxes for the most part, to help him with living expenses while he is in school.  He knows that he will not always be a box crusher, because he has bigger plans for himself.  He works towards though goals.  And eventually, he gets there.

      Julia:  She bitches and moans about how Walmart doesn't pay enough for their employees.  She puts in a full day, picketing in front of a local walmat store, then goes home, and watches TV.

      •  oopps. (0+ / 0-)

        Julia has 2 children. She also works at Walmart.  But, since  she is entitled to a "living wage", be cause she has kids, she earns more than Bill, even though she crushes just as many boxes per shift as him.  

        A living wage is for the weak and the cowards.  If you want to earn as much as youre worth, then go get it!  Stop pointing fingers to him, her, or anybody because you are not where you want to be!  That's what cowards do!

  •  Spineless wimps (0+ / 0-)

    Power to the Peaceful!

    by misterwade on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 05:33:48 PM PDT

  •  Why Walmart? (0+ / 0-)

    Why do most of the posters here HATE Walmart?   Only sincere replies will be appreciate.  

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