Taking Stock

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DC Mayor Gray Vetoes $12.50/Hour ‘Living Wage’ Bill 

After months of speculation concerning Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray’s decision on a $12.50 minimum “living wage,” the District’s top elected official vetoed the bill which had been passed two months earlier by DC Council by an 8-5 margin. And since the council does not have the nine votes needed to overturn the veto, the bill is dead and Wal-Mart and other non-union companies whose corporate sales exceed $1 billion annually and want to build new stores in the nation’s capital that are larger than 75,000 square feet can do so in an unimpeded fashion (however, unionized companies like Giant/Landover and Safeway would have been exempt from the proposed legislation).

“The bill is a job-killer, because nearly every large retailer now considering opening a store in the District has indicated they would not come here or expand here if this bill becomes law,” Gray noted, citing Wegmans, Target and Home Depot.

After committing to open six stores in the Cistrict (in large part due to Gray’s aggressive lobbying effort), Wal-Mart contested the proposed legislation, pledging not to build three of those six stores (three are already under construction) it has planned if the bill became law. In squashing the bill, Gray said the it would have had a much larger impact than many people realized.

“Mayor Gray has chosen jobs, economic development and common sense over special interests,” Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo said. “Now that this discriminatory legislation is behind us, we will move forward on our first stores in our nation’s capital.”

After the veto was announced, Gray said he would work with the council to introduce a bill raising the District’s minimum wage for all workers. The minimum wage in Washington, DC is currently $8.25 an hour, $1.00 higher than the federal minimum.

“The more I delved into the bill,” Gray stated, “the more I realized how few people would benefit from this.”

Clearly, the right decision was made by Mayor Gray. The bill was so flawed and discriminatory that it made no sense on any objective level (unless you were one of the retailers who would be exempted).

Whether you like or dislike Wal-Mart is not the issue. This isn’t Tyson’s Corner or downtown Bethesda (or other desirable locations). Nobody is forcing DC residents to seek jobs at Wal-Mart (although we’re told the number of job seekers who have applied is enormous). Although it might cost him re-election, it took some cojones for Vincent Gray to do the right thing. And that in itself for any recent Washington, DC mayor is noteworthy.