Walmart officials warned Washington, D.C. lawmakers yesterday that if the city council passes a new super-minimum-wage proposal, it’ll pull at least three stores planned for the area. Executives and lobbyists delivered the news in person to council members yesterday, less than 24 hours before a vote was scheduled on the legislation.
The Washington Post reports that Walmart had previously spoken out against the bill, but this is the first time it directly threatened to withdraw plans.
At stake are three stores with construction underway that could be in jeopardy, as well as three others that have yet to get started but would be pulled if the bill passes. A total of 1,800 people would be employed by the six stores.
The bill, known Large Retailer Accountability Act, passed the council on an initial 8 to 5 vote last month. It would require retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion and operating in spaces 75,000 square feet or larger to pay employees no less than $12.50. The current minimum wage in the city is $8.25.
A regional general manager for Walmart says that the proposed requirement “would clearly inject unforeseen costs into the equation that will create an uneven playing field and challenge the fiscal health of our planned D.C. stores.” As such, plans for three stores would be scrapped and the three stores already underway would face a review of the “financial and legal implications.”
Mayor Vincent C. Gray says the move is “immensely discouraging” and that he might have to veto the bill if it does pass.
“The cancellation of three planned stores will surely set us back,” he said. “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.”
This is a similar scenario to other battles that have gone down between Walmart and big cities, notes the Post: When Chicago passed a living-wage measure, the company said it would either scrap plans or majorly pull back planning on opening several stores. That prompted Mayor Richard M. Daley to veto the bill. Just last March, New York raised its minimum wage after promising tax subsidies to companies like Walmart.
As such, experts say this is old hat for Walmart.
“When asked about labor law, they generally say, we follow the laws of the jurisdiction in which we’re operating,” Ken Jacobs, chairman of the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education told the Post. “But it’s also clear when they say that, that they put a lot of weight on shaping the laws in the jurisdictions where they are operating.”
While the bill initially passed with an 8 to 5 vote, if the mayor overrides it this time around, it would need 9 council member votes to go ahead.
“For them to now stick guns to council members’ heads is unfortunate and regrettable,” said lawmaker Vincent B. Orange, a proponent of the bill.