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Super-minimum wage bill vetoed

September 13, 2013

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The mayor of the District of Columbia today vetoed a controversial bill that would have forced certain employers to pay a so-called super-minimum wage to their employees, which comes as good news for Washington, D.C.

As this blog reported over the summer, the District’s city council in July passed the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA), dubbed the “Wal-Mart bill” because of its intended target, which sought to impose an inflated super-minimum wage of $12.50 per hour on employers whose parent companies earn at least $1 billion annually.  By its own terms, the bill would have imposed this super-minimum wage on large employers like Wal-Mart and other “big box” retailers seeking to do business in the nation’s capital. 

Wal-Mart had gone through a lengthy negotiation with the District to reach an agreement by which the company planned to build six stores in the city.  Once that deal was sealed and construction underway, the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which has tried unsuccessfully to unionize Wal-Mart for years, and some its fellow travelers lobbied the D.C. Council to pass the LRAA, which conveniently exempted unionized stores from the super-minimum wage requirement, thereby making unionization a potential “low cost” option.  You know, in case someone (wink, wink) wanted to unionize and pay less than $12.50.

Rather than play that game, Wal-Mart announced that it would cancel plans to build three stores that it had yet to begin building, including one in Mayor Gray’s home district, and reevaluate its plans at the remaining three stores.

Although the city council passed the LRAA in July, the council chairman held onto the bill for weeks, delivering it to the mayor just before Labor Day for a symbolic boost.  One supposes a lot of lobbying took place in the meantime, but still Mayor Gray had 10 business days ultimately to decide what to do.

In his veto message, Mayor Gray said the LRAA is “not a true living-wage bill, because it would raise the minimum wage only for a small fraction of the District’s workforce.”  Moreover, it would be a “job-killer,” which indeed it would have been.

The city council can try to override the veto and needs to move just one vote to do so.  It is unclear if anyone on the council will reconsider their vote, but regardless Mayor Gray deserves credit for doing the right thing and hopefully putting an end to this cynical, union-backed ploy.

Crossposted from the Workforce Freedom Initiative’s blog.

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