Does ‘Living Wage’ Bill Mean No Living Wal-Marts in D.C.?

On July 10, the District Council passed, 8-5, the Large Retailer Accountability Act, which is, according to the actual signed bill, designed to “establish standards for responsible business practices by large retailers by ensuring that they pay living wages and provide benefits.”

The bill would require any business that has retail stores of at least 75,000 square feet and has an annual gross revenue of $1 billion or more to pay its employees an hourly wage of at least $11.50. The bill gives the mayor power to choose the living wage, provided it never drops below $12.50, and is required to re-evaluate the wage amount every year. The current minimum wage is $8.25.

How does this affect the construction of the three Wal-Marts in the area? After the bill passed, Wal-Mart threatened that it would abandon three of its planned location — and possibly get out of another three buildings now under construction. Wal-Mart was never in favor of the bill and, in a statement of its own, said the mandatory wage increase would “change the fiscal health of” its planned stores. Losing the Wal-Marts would mean losing jobs for these areas: 300 at each location, according to one local news website,

Mayor Vincent Gray could still veto the newly passed bill. He has not said where he stands on the possibility of a veto, but Gray is not the biggest fan of the bill. Also, in the discussion about the bill are concerns of future economic and investment consequences for the District of Columbia. What needs to be considered, and what Mayor Gray must decide, is if the employment and development benefits outweigh these consequences and if the District will indeed turn this bill into law.

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