Mayor Vince Gray vetoed the Large Retailer Accountability Act (otherwise known as the Walmart bill) today, saying that although the “intentions of its supporters were good,” the legislation would ” kill economic development” in some parts of the District “for a generation.”
In his veto letter to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Gray says the bill would kill jobs and hurt economic development. Instead, Gray wants the Council to increase the minimum wage citywide by a “reasonable” amount. The Council, which is back in session next week, could try to override the veto, but it passed one vote short of the majority that would be needed to do that.
“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,” Gray writes.
Walmart had threatened to cancel three stores in the District if the bill, which would have raised wages at its stores and other big-box retailers whose workers aren’t covered by collective-bargaining agreements to $12.50 an hour (or less, counting benefits), had become law. In a statement, Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo praised Gray for choosing “jobs, economic development and common sense over special interests.”
“Now that this discriminatory legislation is behind us, we will move forward on our first stores in our nation’s capital,” Restivo says. “We look forward to finishing the work we started in the city almost three years ago: a plan to bring more jobs, shopping options and fresh food choices to Washington, D.C. residents.
A statement from Respect D.C., one of the leading organizations pushing for the bill, said the veto was disappointing. “Mayor Gray had the opportunity to stand up for the residents of this city, but instead he allowed large, out of town companies, like Walmart, to threaten him and ultimately dictate the policies of our city,” Ward 7 resident and Macy’s employee Kimberly Mitchell says in the statement. “By vetoing this bill he has further eroded the ability of D.C. residents and workers to earn enough money to take care of themselves and their families while remaining in the city.”
Read Gray’s letter on the veto below:
Photo by Darrow Montgomery