The Death of D.C.’s Living Wage Bill

On July 22nd of this year we reported on the passage of the Large Retailer Accountability Act by the DC Council and awaited a possible veto of the bill from Mayor Vincent Gray. The bill targeted Wal-Mart (and other large retailers) by requiring new retailers without unionized workers that have more than 75,000 SF of floor space and more than $1BB in sales to pay employees a minimum of $12.50 per hour. In response to this bill Wal-Mart released a statement informing stakeholders that enactment of the law would result in a cancellation of the plans to build three stores at Skyland Shopping Center, Capitol Gateway and New York Avenue NE and would jeopardize the existence of the three stores currently under construction.

On September 12, 2013 Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the bill, stating passage of the bill “would have a chilling effect on economic development everywhere in [the] city by sending a clear message to retailers considering the District that they are not welcome here.” Additionally, Gray highlighted the difficulty of getting anchor tenants to build in under served District neighborhoods and shared comments from other retailers who stated passage of the bill would either stop them from coming to the District or would halt their expansion.

Mayor Vincent Gray’s action of vetoing the bill set the stage for the DC Council to decide whether the veto would be overturned. The bill was initially passed by the Council via a vote of 8 to 5, but required 9 Council votes to override the veto and pass the bill into law. Last Tuesday, September 17th, nearly three months after the original passage of the bill, members of the Council in favor of the bill fell short of the 9 votes needed to override it, thereby putting a temporary end to the threat facing retailers in the District.

After the override was defeated, Wal-Mart reasserted its commitment to build at least five and possibly six stores in the District, stating that “they [are] look[ing] forward to being a part of the solution in communities across D.C.” with regard to “creating jobs, economic development opportunities and more affordable shopping options.” Despite the death of the Living Wage Bill, the fight over the District’s minimum wage is not over. Retailers should stay tuned, as Councilmen have introduced bills which propose to raise the current minimum wage of $8.25 per hour to anywhere between $10.25 to $12.50 per hour.

Related topics: Development, Retail