Walmart Threatens To Pull Three D.C. Locations Over Living Wage Bill | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : News

Filed Under:

Walmart Threatens To Pull Three D.C. Locations Over Living Wage Bill

Play associated audio
The Skyland Town Center is one of three locations out of which Walmart is threatening to pull out.
Patrick Madden
The Skyland Town Center is one of three locations out of which Walmart is threatening to pull out.

Walmart is issuing the D.C. government a stark ultimatum over its proposal to make big box retailers pay a living wage—kill the bill or it will close half of its six planned stores in D.C.

Under the provisions of the bill first passed by the D.C. Council in late June, retailers occupying more than 75,000 square feet and making more than $1 billion in annual sales would have to a "living wage" of $12.50 an hour; the city's minimum wage stands at $8.25 an hour.

Proponents say the bill would ensure a measure of economic justice in a city long divided between haves and have nots, but the Arkansas-based mega-retailer says the bill—which would affect it but not other national retailers like Apple and Nike—is "arbitrary, discriminatory, and discourages investment in D.C."

The bill is up for a second and final vote today. If it passes and is not vetoed by Mayor Vince Gray, Walmart says it will close three stores planned for D.C., including two in Ward 7, an area east of the Anacostia river and largely underdeveloped compared to the rest of the city. Six stores have been planned for the city, with three currently under construction.

Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), a big proponent of the stores, says she's frustrated by what's happened and hopes her colleagues on the Council listen to Walmart and vote down the living wage bill.

"We're talking 600 jobs in one of the wards where the highest unemployment rates exist. We're talking in a food dessert where groceries would be the main item for sale," she says.

But Council Chairman Phil Mendelson—a supporter of the living wage bill—said he's disappointed by WalMart's all or nothing approach.

"Clearly they're playing hardball with regard to this legislation. I'm not sure that's the best way to sit down and to work on important policy," he says.

The pressure has only increased with the announcement by a developer that if Walmart pulls out of the Skyland location in Ward 7, the planned redevelopment of the long-delayed site will not go forward at all. Additionally, the retailer said in a Washington Post op-ed that it would even reconsider the three stores currently under construction.

The head of the local AFL-CIO—a labor group that supports the living wage bill—blasted Walmart's threat, calling it "economic blackmail."

In a statement, Gray pushed legislators to reject the bill. “I strongly urge the Council to consider whether this legislation will actually promote strong economic development in the District and expand job opportunities for District residents," he said.


View Planned Walmart Locations In D.C. in a larger map
WAMU 88.5

Art Beat With Lauren Landau, May 4, 2015

You can see two films about dramatic changes—one real, the other fictional—in small, European communities.

NPR

'Into The Wild' Author Tries Science To Solve Toxic Seed Mystery

Jon Krakauer has long been haunted by how Christopher McCandless died in the Alaskan wilderness. In a scientific journal, he and a chemist show that the seeds McCandless consumed can contain a toxin.
WAMU 88.5

Virginia Privacy Advocates See Win On Drones, Loss On License Plate Readers

Police in Virginia will have to get a warrant before using a drone in a criminal case, a victory for privacy advocates, but a measure to limit data collection from license plate readers was shot down.

NPR

The Promise And Potential Pitfalls Of Apple's ResearchKit

Apple's new mobile software platform is designed to help collect data for medical research, but concerns have been raised about privacy and informed consent.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.