Mayor Gray Vetoes Council’s ‘Living Wage’ Bill

Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed today the proposed Large Retailer Accountability Act of 2013. The bill would have held large retailers, such as Walmart, to increase employees’ wages to a minimum $12.50 per hour. It was met with much opposition from Walmart — which threatened to pull out from three of its planned Washington locations if Gray signed the bill — and others.

“I am vetoing this legislation precisely because I believe in providing a living wage to as many District residents as possible – and this bill is not a true living-wage measure,” Gray said. “While the intentions of its supporters were good, this bill is simply a woefully inadequate and flawed vehicle for achieving the goal we all share.”

Gray noted that the jobs may not even go to D.C. residents. While so people may be upset with the veto, the mayor also called for a reasonable increase in the District’s minimum wage for all workers.

The mayor’s letter to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, explaining his decision, listed six major points:

= “The bill in not a true living-wage bill …

= The bill is a job-killer …

= The bill would affect far more retailers than many supporters think …

= The bill doesn’t guarantee good-paying jobs for District residents …

= The bill does nothing to help underserved parts of the District …

= The bill will deal a huge blow to economic development …”

If the 13-member D.C. Council can gather nine votes, it can override Gray’s veto. It voted 8-5 for the bill on July 10.

Respect D.C., “a coalition of grassroots-based organizations, pastors, workers, and community members concerned about the quality of life in the nation’s capital,” issued a statement in response to the mayor’s veto of the bill with comments from some of its members, including this one from Kimberly Mitchell, a Macy’s employee and lifelong Ward 7 resident: “I am incredibly upset, disappointed, and angry that Mayor Gray has decided to stand with Walmart and other large corporations instead of with the residents of this city. Mayor Gray has made it clear who he stands with and it’s not with me, my neighbors or the residents of D.C. We are now counting on the City Council to do the right thing, stand up with D.C. residents, and override this veto. Mayor Gray had the opportunity to stand up for the residents of this city, but instead he allowed large, out of town companies, like Walmart, to threaten him and ultimately dictate the policies of our city. By vetoing this bill he has further eroded the ability of D.C. residents and workers to earn enough money to take care of themselves and their families while remaining in the city.”

“This is a major victory for the residents of the District of Columbia and the business community,” said Barbara B. Lang, president and CEO of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. “Mayor Gray should be commended for vetoing this irresponsible bill that undermines the work we’re doing to increase employment opportunities for District residents. … We’re now in a position to be the economic hub for our region and end the retail leakage that has plagued our city for too long.”

After the veto was announced and assuming it is not overridden, a Walmart spokesman informed local media that the company would “move forward” on its stores in D.C., including one at Skyland Town Center in the mayor’s neighborhood.

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