Despite threats from Wal-Mart, the Washington, D.C. legislators have approved the “living wage” bill. One supporting council member, Vincent B. Orange (D), said, “The question here is a living wage; it’s not whether Wal-Mart comes or stays.” He continued, “We’re at a point where we don’t need retailers. Retailers need us.”
It is unclear yet what kind of chances the bill has of being signed into law. There may be opposition in the form of Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who has argued in the past in favor of Wal-Mart’s entry. If Wal-Mart follows through and backs out of D.C., that would mean the cancellation of three proposed sites. There are three more already being constructed, and Wal-Mart plans to look at the costs of not opening them, assuming the bill is signed. ‘
The Washington Post reports, “The vote sets up a high-profile veto decision for Gray, who has supported Wal-Mart’s entry into the city, arguing that the company would bring badly needed jobs and retail stores to neighborhoods in need of both. The three stores that the company has pledged definitively not to pursue are all in the city’s eastern half, in areas largely devoid of quality retail.” They go on to say, “Gray, who has met recently with Wal-Mart representatives, reiterated serious concerns over the lost jobs and retail opportunities for District residents that the bill will cause,’ in a statement released after the council vote.”
It is unclear at this time what level of “quality retail” Wal-Mart would provide, and Gray’s support of the retail giant doesn’t bode well for the future of the living wage bill, which specifically targets large, profitable employers, forcing them to give employees enough to live on (or closer to it) so that the taxpayers can stop subsidizing the working poor, forcing cheap and greedy corporate employers to pick up the tab instead. Stores with corporate sales totaling more than $1 billion and larger than 75,000 square feet would have to pay $12.50 per hour, 50 percent more than the city’s minimum wage, $8.25.
In preparation for the battle, Wal-Mart is paying David W. Wilmot, a local lobbyist, $10,000 to try and work things out. They’ve also spent quite a bit of money trying to improve their image and local support:
Well before it had any solid plans to open stores in the District, Wal-Mart joined the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and began making inroads with politicians, community groups and local charities that work on anti-hunger initiatives.
The campaign was matched with cash. Through its charitable foundation, Wal-Mart made $3.8 million in donations last year to city organizations including D.C. Central Kitchen and the Capitol Area Food Bank, according to a company spokesman. (Source)
Wal-Mart can definitely afford a wage increase. The question of whether they will support one is determined by which they care more about, profits or people — and they’ve clearly shown, again and again, which of those it is.