Washington mayor vetoes wage bill aimed at big retailers

WASHINGTON Thu Sep 12, 2013 3:42pm EDT

Washington Mayor Vincent Gray applauds U.S. President Barack Obama as he delivers his third annual back-to-school speech at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, September 28, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Washington Mayor Vincent Gray applauds U.S. President Barack Obama as he delivers his third annual back-to-school speech at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, September 28, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington Mayor Vincent Gray on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have forced big retailers to pay a premium over the local minimum wage, calling it "a job killer" for a city trying to lure Wal-Mart and other big-box stores.

The bill, approved by the city council two months ago, would have required big retailers to pay a roughly 50 percent premium on the U.S. capital's minimum wage of $8.25 per hour. Backers said that Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, and others could easily afford it to enter the District of Columbia's fast-growing market.

Major U.S. retailers, including Target Corp and Home Depot Inc, had opposed the bill.

Wal-Mart has proposed opening six stores in the capital, which were forecast to employ 1,800 people. Had the bill passed, Washington would have become the first city to require big-box retailers to pay higher wages than other businesses.

"The bill is a job killer, because nearly every large retailer now considering opening a store in the District has indicated that they will not come here or expand here if this bill becomes law," Gray, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Hit by federal budget cuts, the District of Columbia's jobless rate rose to 8.6 percent in July, a percentage point above the U.S. average.

Gray's veto was praised by Wal-Mart, as well as the National Retail Federation and the Greater Washington Board of Trade.

"Now that this discriminatory legislation is behind us, we will move forward on our first stores in our nation's capital," Wal-Mart said in a statement.

OVERRIDE ATTEMPT AHEAD

Backers of the bill will try to override Gray's veto in a council hearing on Tuesday, said Denise Tolliver, chief of staff for Council President Phil Mendelson, who had supported it.

The measure had passed the council in an 8-5 vote. Nine votes are needed to override a veto.

"We're not sure whether we have the votes for an override but the chairman will be working on it between now and then," Tolliver said in an email.

Proponents said the measure would have been a positive for the city.

"This bill would have positive ripple effects across the entire District economy, because studies have shown that low-wage workers are more likely to spend extra money on local goods and services," said Sarita Gupta, executive director of the labor group Jobs with Justice.

The bill had targeted non-unionized stores with more than 75,000 square feet (7,000 square meters) of interior space operated by companies with annual revenue of $1 billion a year.

They would have had to pay a minimum wage of $12.50 an hour. The District's $8.25 an hour minimum wage already exceeds the $7.25 federal minimum. The bill would have given a four-year exemption to big retailers already in the District of Columbia.

Chicago's City Council approved a similar measure in 2006 requiring Wal-Mart and other big retailers to pay much higher wages, but Mayor Richard Daley vetoed it. Wal-Mart has nine stores in Chicago.

(Reporting by Scott Malone and Ian Simpson; Additional reporting by Chris Francescani; Editing by Maureen Bavdek, Leslie Adler and Richard Chang)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (19)
Change the headline to “big-box minimum wage bill.” The generally applicable minimum wage is still there and would not have been affected by the bill.

Sep 12, 2013 12:39pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Change the headline to “big-box minimum wage bill.” The generally applicable minimum wage is still there and would not have been affected by the bill.

Sep 12, 2013 12:39pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Eideard wrote:
Shows what this political hack thinks of working folks in his town – as well as his willingness to roll over for corporate bosses.

Sep 12, 2013 12:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

California state worker Albert Jagow (L) goes over his retirement options with Calpers Retirement Program Specialist JeanAnn Kirkpatrick at the Calpers regional office in Sacramento, California October 21, 2009. Calpers, the largest U.S. public pension fund, manages retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million people, with assets comparable in value to the entire GDP of Israel. The Calpers investment portfolio had a historic drop in value, going from a peak of $250 billion in the fall of 2007 to $167 billion in March 2009, a loss of about a third during that period. It is now around $200 billion. REUTERS/Max Whittaker   (UNITED STATES) - RTXPWOZ

How to get out of debt

Financial adviser Eric Brotman offers strategies for cutting debt from student loans and elder care -- and how to avoid money woes in the first place.  Video