WASHINGTON, Sept 12 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
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
"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.