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Mayor Gray Vetoes Large Retailer Bill and Calls for Reasonable Increase in Minimum Wage for All

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mayor Gray Vetoes Large Retailer Bill and Calls for Reasonable Increase in Minimum Wage for All

(Washington, DC)Citing the likelihood that it would harm job growth and economic development, Mayor Vincent C. Gray today announced that he had vetoed the Large Retailer Accountability Act of 2013 (LRAA). He also called for a reasonable increase in the District’s minimum wage for all workers.

“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,” said Mayor Gray. “While the intentions of its supporters were good, this bill is simply a woefully inadequate and flawed vehicle for achieving the goal we all share.”

In a letter to Chairman Phil Mendelson and other members of the DC Council explaining his veto decision, the Mayor noted that many bill supporters who spoke to him seemed to be relying on misconceptions about what the LRAA contained.

“In listening to the well-intentioned voices expressing support for the bill, I have repeatedly heard a number of fundamental misunderstandings about what the legislation would actually do and what its enactment into law would mean for District residents,” the Mayor wrote, before outlining its flaws:

  • “The bill is not a true living-wage bill, because it would raise the minimum wage only for a small fraction of the District’s workforce,” Mayor Gray wrote, noting that the bill would only affect a handful of retailers whose stores are supermarket-sized or larger and whose workforces are not unionized – at best, a very small fraction of the District’s retailers.
  • “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, noting that the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development had estimated that the LRAA, if it became law, would cost the District 4,000 jobs in the first few years alone.
  • “The bill would affect far more retailers than many supporters think,” Mayor Gray said, pointing out that, even though the vast majority of the attention and publicity surrounding the bill has focused on Walmart, many other retailers have said they will not open stores in the District or would seriously reconsider expanding here if the LRAA were to become law. They include Target, Home Depot, Wegmans, Lowe’s, Walgreens, Harris Teeter, AutoZone and Macy’s.
  • “Even if the bill did somehow end up creating a small number of higher-paying jobs, it does nothing to ensure that those jobs would actually be filled by District residents,” the Mayor wrote, explaining that nothing in the bill would guarantee that District residents got any of the living-wage jobs created or that would prevent those jobs from going to residents of neighboring jurisdictions.
  • “This bill does nothing to help underserved parts of the District,” the Mayor wrote, explaining that many of the neighborhoods that would lose major retailers were the LRAA to become law currently have few, if any, quality retail options – and no realistic prospects of gaining any if the law takes effect.
  • “The bill will not modestly delay economic development in underserved District neighborhoods long deprived of jobs and retail amenities; it will kill economic development in these communities for a generation,” Mayor Gray said, noting that the extremely delicate and significant work that has been done to revive long-stalled projects like redevelopment of the Skyland shopping center in Ward 7 would be destroyed if the LRAA became law – with no plausible alternative plans for jump-starting those projects.

The Mayor concluded the letter by calling for a reasonable increase in the District’s minimum wage that would affect workers and employers in an equitable fashion. “I look forward to putting this debate behind us and working with the Council to do what President Obama proposed earlier this year and what several states and municipalities have recently done: pass a reasonable increase to the District’s minimum wage for all workers,” he wrote. “Meanwhile, we must remain firmly focused on my Administration’s top priority of growing and diversifying the District’s economy in order to create new good-paying jobs and to better educate and prepare our residents to obtain them. If I were to sign this bill into law, it would do nothing but hinder our ability to create jobs, drive away retailers, and set us back on the path to prosperity for all.”