D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) Thursday, which was sponsored by City Councilman Phil Mendelson. The mayor said it would likely harm job growth and economic development. “I am vetoing this legislation precisely because I believe in providing a living wage to as many District residents as possible and this bill is not a true living-wage measure,” Mayor Gray said.
Community group Ward 4 Thrives is disappointed. "My first reaction was emasculation of a black mayor," said Willie Baker, spokesman for the group. "I feel so sorry for him to be whipped on by Walmart that way and he had to stand there and take it.” The LRAA has widely been called the "Walmart Bill" because it targets big-box retailers and the chain is in the process of building six stores in the District.
“The bill is a job-killer, because nearly every large retailer now considering opening a store in the District has indicated that they will not come here or expand here if this bill becomes law,” the Mayor wrote in a letter to Mendelson and District residents.
Baker is not satisfied with the Mayor's response. "It is such a bad sign for the city that they would think we don’t deserve good paying jobs," he said. "What make us the ones who only have low-wage, low-benefit jobs? We, in the city, demand that we bring in employers who will pay a decent wage and provide benefits. After all, this is one of the most expensive cities in America," Baker said.
Baker plans to continue to try to find the 9th vote to override the Mayor’s veto and "find a city council person who has a higher opinion of the citizens of the district than does the Mayor."
Walmart had lobbied against the bill. “The LRAA would unfairly single out "large retailers" for special wage and benefit requirements not imposed on any other businesses or organizations in the city,” said Steven Restivo, Senior Director of Communications for Walmart. “This would impede companies such as Macy's, Home Depot, Lowe's and Target from bringing thousands of new jobs, more shopping choices and lower retail prices to the District” he said. Read Walmart’s written testimony about the bill.
Councilman Tommy Wells, who voted against LRAA, has proposed his own living wage bill.
Ward 4 Thrives is holding an ecumenical prayer vigil Friday at the site of one of the Walmart stores under construction. It will take place at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Missouri Avenue, NW from 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. and will give residents a chance to speak out about why they want greater control over commercial businesses in their neighborhoods.