Walmart Threatens To Pull Out Of D.C. Over 'Living Wage'
As The Washington Post reports, D.C. Council members are voting Wednesday on a bill that would demand mega-retailers pay their employees at least $12.50 an hour, with Walmart the clear target. Walmart, which pays its hourly associates an average of $8.84 an hour, according to Glassdoor, threatened to stop at least three of the six planned Walmart stores from opening in the city if the bill succeeded, forcing the council to decide: Are no new Walmart jobs better than poorly paid ones?
In a Post op-ed published Tuesday, Walmart regional general manager Alex Barron called the bill "an eleventh-hour effort" that is "arbitrary and discriminatory" and "discourages investment in Washington."
Update, 07/10/13, 5.50 p.m. EDT: The city council passed the bill by a vote of 8 to 5. It is now headed to the desk of the mayor, who has indicated that he may veto it.
The ultimatum was "immensely discouraging," Mayor Vincent C. Gray told the Post, since six new stores -- three of them already under construction -- that Walmart is planning would employ 1,800 people, bringing needed jobs, cash, affordable retail, and fresh produce to the capital's poorer neighborhoods. Barron said even the three stores underway could be scrapped if the bill becomes law, pending a review of "financial and legal implications."
The proposal comes on the heels of a wave of union-backed worker protests against Walmart, demanding better hours and a "living wage," which some have pinned at $15 an hour, and accusing the country's largest employer of retaliating against workers who try to organize. Last year, Walmart's bid to open its first store in New York City collapsed, because of backlash from labor unions, community advocates and politicians who charged the retailer with unfair labor practices. Last week, two major European pension funds divested from Walmart, citing labor violations.
Before Walmart's warning to the council today, Gray had called Walmart "a good corporate neighbor," because of its efforts to hear the concerns and desires of local communities, and Walmart says its polls show almost three quarters of residents "in favor" of Walmart. Gray told the Post he would consider vetoing the bill.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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