D.C. Mayor Vetoes Wage Bill Targeting Large Retailers

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Wal-Mart says its plans to open six stores in the nation's capitol are back on after the mayor vetoed a so-called living wage bill that targeted big box retailers. The focus now turns to the District's 13 member City Council. The bill passed in July with eight votes — nine are needed to override a veto.


California is seeing its first increase in the state's minimum wage in six years - a 25 percent increase this time around. Yesterday, the state legislature voted to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign that bill into law.

Now on the flip side, here in Washington, the mayor vetoed a so-called living wage bill that targeted large retailers. That's a victory for Wal-Mart. The retail store says it will continue with its plans to open six stores in the nation's capital - plans that Wal-Mart says it would have abandoned.

But as Patrick Madden, of member station WAMU reports, supporters of the bill are not ready to give up.

PATRICK MADDEN, BYLINE: There was the bill: A proposal passed by the city council requiring retailers such as Wal-Mart to pay $12.50 an hour, 50 percent above the city's minimum wage.

Then there was the ultimatum by Wal-Mart: Veto the bill or it would pull out of at least three stores, costing hundreds of jobs and stifling development in underserved neighborhoods.

And politics: D.C. is a heavily democratic town and the mayor is weighing a re-election bid. In the end, Mayor Vincent Gray says his decision boils down to jobs.

MAYOR VINCENT GRAY: And there's no question in my mind that there were retailers who otherwise had a good chance of coming to city that would be run off by this bill.

MADDEN: Gray says if Wal-Mart abandons its plans to build stores in D.C., there would be no jobs - living wage or otherwise. But labor groups say the law would send a strong message to retailers and cities across the country.

Mike Wilson is with Respect DC.

MIKE WILSON: Wal-Mart sets the standard generally by driving wages down wherever it goes. This would be an opportunity to say let's take these large employers and have them drive wages up.

MADDEN: The focus now turns to the D.C.'s 13-member city council. The bill passed in July with eight votes. Nine votes are needed to override a veto.

For NPR News in Washington, I'm Patrick Madden.

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