‘Living wage’ mandate in D.C. sends Walmart running
Walmart said Wednesday it would abandon three planned stores in Washington, D.C. and consider stopping the construction of three others over a so-called “living wage” bill.
“Nothing has changed from our perspective: we will not pursue Skyland, Capitol Gateway, and New York Avenue and will start to review the financial and legal implications on the three stores already under construction,” Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo said in a statement. “This was a difficult decision for us — and unfortunate news for most D.C. residents — but the Council has forced our hand.”
The Large Retailer Accountability Act was passed in the D.C. Council by a 8-5 vote on Wednesday. If signed by Mayor Vince Gray, it would require retailers that make more than $1 billion per year and occupy at least 75,000 square feet to pay employees at least $12.50 per hour, minus benefits. Stores with collective bargaining agreements would not be effected by the law.
The Council was apparently unmoved by Walmart’s threats to pull out of the city.
“From day one, we have said that this legislation is arbitrary and discriminatory and that it discourages investment in Washington,” Walmart regional general manager Alex Barron said in an op-ed piece published by The Washington Post.
“As a result, Wal-Mart will not pursue stores at Skyland, Capitol Gateway or New York Avenue if the LRAA is passed,” he added. “What’s more, passage would also jeopardize the three stores already under construction, as we would thoroughly review the financial and legal implications of the bill on those projects.”
Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry was not convinced the big-box retailer would completely abandon the city.
“I don’t believe Walmart at this point, that they’re gonna leave the District,” he said, according to Washington City Paper. “That’s a stickup. And we’re not gonna be stuck up.”
[Note: Updated to reflect Wednesday’s vote]