The fate of at least three Walmart stores in the District may now in the hands of Mayor Vincent Gray.
On Thursday the D.C. Council passed legislation requiring certain big box retailers to pay a living wage of $12.50 an hour, a 50 percent increase over the city's minimum wage. The Council approved the bill on an 8-5 vote, despite threats from the Arkansas-based mega-retailer that it would bail on three of six planned D.C. stores, including two in Gray's home ward.
"And now they're telling us, 'We're going to leave if [you] do this.' Well, you're not gonna put a gun to my head. I don't know about the rest of you. So today, Council of the District of Columbia, stand up for the residents who sent you down here, give them a little back," said Council member Vincent Orange (D-At Large).
Walmart has called the bill "discriminatory," complaining that it exempts stores with union workers, for example. The bill also won't apply to national retailers occupying spaces of less than 75,000 square feet.
Proponents have said that the bill will ensure a measure of economic justice for Walmart workers, and that the retailer can easily afford the higher salaries.
The pressure is now on Gray, who could veto the legislation. Gray says he has serious concerns over the council's action but has not indicated what he will do.