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Gray Faces Tight Deadline To Decide On Living Wage Bill

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D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At Large) speaking at a rally outside the Wilson Building, where he urged Mayor Vince Gray to sign a bill requiring Walmart to pay $12.50 an hour.
WAMU/Patrick Madden
D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At Large) speaking at a rally outside the Wilson Building, where he urged Mayor Vince Gray to sign a bill requiring Walmart to pay $12.50 an hour.

In the District, the so-called "living wage" bill is now in the hands of Mayor Vince Gray.

The proposal, which was passed by the D.C. Council in July, would require Walmart and other large retailers to pay workers $12.50 an hour. Though it took close to two months to get to Gray, he now has less than 10 days to sign or veto it. Still, he's not ready to be rushed.

"The Council look 50 days... they just sat on it for whatever their purposes. We have 10, we will take whatever time seems to be appropriate to come to what we think is the best decision," he said.

Ten days to listen to both sides present their argument. Ten days for groups to issue statements, press releases and hold press conferences like one that took place Tuesday on the steps of City Hall.

Supporters of the bill—a diverse crowd drawn from labor groups—were on hand to turn over thousands of signatures to Gray from residents urging him to sign the measure. They also delivered blistering speeches.

"He can pass it, shake it bake it, sauté it, filet it, boil it, broil it—I don't care what he does, he better sign the bill," said Inocencio Quinones with the group OUR D.C.

Despite the pressure and the deadline, Gray is doing his best not to tip his hat. While the protesters were lining up outside, Gray was inside the Wilson Building holding a press conference on the damaging effects of sequestration on the city's job force and economy.

After the Council's July vote, Walmart announced that it would scrap three of six planned stores in the city, potentially cutting hundreds of jobs.

Some at the meeting suggested the attention to D.C.'s sluggish employment picture could help provide political cover for Gray if he decides to veto the bill, but Gray disagreed.

"I haven't even put the two together," he said.

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