Wal-Mart Wins Minimalist Minimum Wage in D.C.

Size matters. Washington, D.C. Mayor Gray vetoed a bill that would have forced large retailers to compensate employees a little better.

(Photo Credit: faul/Flickr)

The Large Retailer Accountability Act would have forced businesses in Washington, D.C. that operate in indoor spaces of more than 75,000 square feet and have corporate parents with annual sales of at least $1 billion to pay a higher minimum wage to workers of $11.75 per hour. This would have affected retailers including Wal-Mart and Home Depot. However, those large businesses whose workers enjoy collective bargaining agreements would not have been required to pay the larger minimum wage.

Mayoral Veto

The bill was considered highly controversial and was hotly debated for at least two months. Finally, the Washington Post reported that District Mayor Vincent C. Gray vetoed the Large Retailer Accountability Act on Thursday, September 12, 2013.

Gray is quoted as explaining that the discussed wage of $11.75 is not a true "living wage," meaning a real living wage would need to be higher. At the same time, however, he called the higher wage a "job killer." It is hard to reconcile these two statements next to each other; if the wage is not high enough to be a "living wage," and yet is a "job killer," the Mayor seems to be saying that workers must accept poverty wages or have no jobs at all.

Economic Threats

Gray considers this bill a "job killer" thanks to large retailers including Wal-Mart threatening to refuse to do business in the city should the bill become law. Washington Post quotes Gray: “If I were to sign this bill into law, it would do nothing but hinder our ability to create jobs, drive away retailers, and set us back on the path to prosperity for all.” According to the Post, Gray did not say what minimum wage he would seek, but that there should be a “reasonable increase.”

It seems that the definition of "reasonable" is "acceptable to Wal-Mart."

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