Gray Vetoes Living Wage Bill
Published: Saturday, September 14, 2013
Updated: Saturday, September 14, 2013 16:09
Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the Large Retailer Accountability Act on Thursday, which would have raised the minimum wage for large retailers such as Wal-Mart to $12.50 an hour in combined wages and benefits.
The legislation, also known as the Living Wage Bill, targeted retailers whose parent companies gross more than $1 billion per year and occupy more than 75,000 feet of retail space — namely, Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart was planning to build six stores in the District earlier this year, but pulled out of three of the projects after the LRAA passed the D.C. Council with an 8-5 vote in July. The 8-5 vote was one vote away from a veto-proof majority, and the council’s vote on the override will take place Tuesday.
“I have concluded that the bill, while well intentioned, is flawed and will fail to achieve its intended goals,” Gray wrote in a hand-written letter to D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson on Thursday.
Gray added that the bill would only increase wages for the small number of workers who were employed at super-market-sized stores and were not unionized, and that it would only affect a select few within the district while imposing costs on businesses throughout the city.
“The bill is not a true living-wage bill because it would raise the minimum wage only for a small fraction of the District’s workforce,” Gray wrote.
Instead, Gray proposed a compromise and called for an increase in wages that would affect all workers and employers equally.
“I look forward to putting this debate behind us and working with the council to do what President Obama proposed earlier this year and what several states and municipalities have recently done: pass a reasonable increase to the District’s minimum wage for all workers,” Gray wrote.
Students have advocated for the passage of the LRAA on campus.
“We must support the LRAA and make it clear that if you intend to do business in the District of Columbia, you must treat its citizens with dignity and respect,” Erin Riordan (COL ’15), a member of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee, wrote in an online viewpoint for The Hoya (“Support LRAA for a Livable DC,” July 24).
GSC member Irene Koo (COL ’16) said that she was disappointed in Gray’s decision to veto and praised the D.C. Council’s efforts in supporting low-income workers.
“As one of the largest and highest-earning corporations in the world … Wal-Mart has the potential to impact the living conditions of thousands of families yet chooses not to,” Koo wrote in an email. “The mayor failed his constituents by giving in to a corporation that is notorious for its tendency to depress wages, drive out small businesses and mistreat workers. D.C. residents need jobs, but more importantly, they need to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Wal-Mart Senior Director of Communications Steven Restivo, who responded to Riordan’s viewpoint with a letter to the editor in The Hoya in July, told The Washington Post that Gray’s veto prioritizes “Jobs, economic development and common sense over special interests.”
Carter Elztroth, a 24-year-old D.C. resident, voiced his support for the mayor’s decision against the bill. According to Elztroth, raising the minimum wage floor would decrease the number of employees a company could have.
“I’m glad Wal-Mart might keep expanding in D.C.,” Elztroth said. “It’s a great place to get cheap goods.”