The Washington, D.C., city council voted Wednesday afternoon to impose a $12.50 living wage on large retailers, passing a bill that Tuesday drew
threats from Walmart
that it would scrap plans to build three stores in the District that have not yet begun construction (three are already being built). Walmart had reportedly promised District officials that it would pay an average of $12.39 or more, so the fact that $12.50 was reason to pull out sheds more than a little doubt on the corporation's claims.
The Large Retailer Accountability Act applies to businesses that have corporate sales over $1 billion and spaces of 75,000 square feet or more—big box stores, in short. Though the bill has been characterized as targeting Walmart, it will apply more broadly to stores including Target and Macy's. During the city council debate on the bill:
“The question here is a living wage; it’s not whether Wal-Mart comes or stays,” said Vincent Orange (D-At Large), a lead backer of the legislation who added the city did not need to kowtow to threats: “We’re at a point where we don’t need retailers. Retailers need us.”
The big question now is whether Mayor Vincent Gray will veto the bill, which was passed by an eight to five margin, just short of veto-proof. Gray has not issued a direct veto threat, but seems to be leaning in that direction:
The mayor called Wal-Mart’s Tuesday announcement “immensely discouraging,” hinting more strongly than ever that he is prepared to veto the legislation: “I strongly urge the Council to consider whether this legislation will actually promote strong economic development in the District and expand job opportunities for District residents.”
But according to a spokesman
, the mayor will "be interested to hear what District residents and employers think."
Tell Mayor Gray to sign the Large Retailer Accountability Act and give big box workers a living wage.