In Mayor Vince Gray‘s statement accompanying his veto this morning of the living wage bill, Gray claimed the bill would have killed “more than 4,000 District jobs in just the first few years alone” (emphasis his). Gray attributed this number to Victor Hoskins, his deputy mayor for planning and economic development. But with Walmart threatening to scrap plans for only two stores, with perhaps a few hundred employees each, how did Hoskins arrive at that figure?
Hoskins’ spokeswoman, Chanda Washington, passes along the calculation that produced the number:
Shops at Dakota Crossing – 300
Walter Reed – 400
St. Elizabeths – 300
3 planned Walmarts – 1,125
Retail stores around the planned Walmarts – 675
3 Walmarts under construction – 900
Potential anchor tenants that have expressed heavy interest – 650
Total – 4,350
Washington says these numbers represent both construction and permanent jobs that would be lost because retailers who would otherwise have opened stores in the District would choose not to in the presence of a living wage law. (The bill would require retailers in excess of 75,000 square feet and with parent companies grossing at least $1 billion a year to pay a living wage of $12.50 an hour, minus benefits.)
Walmart, then, represents less than a quarter of the total figure. But the Walmart number itself is questionable. The company was initially threatening to close three of it six planned D.C. stores, but one of those three stores already appears to be in trouble: The owners of the property recently terminated their agreement with the developer, leaving the whole project—-including the Walmart store—-in doubt. Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo says the company remains “committed to building a store at the New York Avenue site and will continue to work towards bringing the project to fruition,” but Walmart is at the mercy of the property owners and whatever future developer they select.
Some of the other figures are more difficult to assess. At Walter Reed, for instance, no developer has been chosen, and at St. Elizabeths, the city hasn’t even issued the solicitation for a developer, so it’s a pure guessing game to try to predict how many jobs might be lost there as a result of the bill. The “retail stores around the planned Walmarts” category is a bit more concrete: The developer of the Skyland Town Center project said the whole development couldn’t continue if Walmart backed out, as it was threatening to do.
Rendering from the Skyland Town Center website