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Walmart will resume work on all five of its planned stores in the District if the D.C. Council does not override Mayor Vince Gray‘s veto of the living wage bill, according to a company spokesman.
Walmart threatened in July to scrap three of its planned D.C. stores and reconsider the other three if the Large Retailer Accountability Act became law and required the company and other large retailers to pay a living wage of $12.50 an hour, minus benefits. (Since then, the site of one of the six stores saw its developer agreement fall apart, throwing that store, on New York Avenue NE, into doubt.) Gray’s Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Victor Hoskins, said at the time that the bill’s “chilling effect” could lead Walmart not to open some of the stores even if the legislation was not enacted.
Amid all this, there was speculation that the debate over the legislation might be an excuse for Walmart to back out of stores it was less committed to, like the one at Skyland Town Center that was planned at Gray’s urging.
But Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo says all five stores are back on track, provided the Council doesn’t override Gray’s veto with nine votes—-one more vote than the eight in favor of the legislation initially.
Restivo says Walmart made clear to the mayor’s office that the stores would open if he vetoed the bill and the veto were upheld. “Our position was, our decision on the fate of those six stores was continent on the LRAA becoming law,” he says.
Construction has already started on three stores. According to Restivo, public hearings on the Capitol Gateway and Skyland stores in Ward 7 have been on hold pending the outcome of the living wage bill. Walmart, Restivo says, remains “committed to building a store at the New York Avenue site and will continue to work towards bringing the project to fruition.”
Photo by Aaron Wiener