As we continue to wait for the D.C. Council to send its living wage bill to Mayor Vince Gray for his signature or veto, supporters of the bill are stepping up their efforts with a rally tonight aimed at showing the mayor the degree of public support for the legislation.
“This platform allows the Mayor, who was invited to attend the event, to hear from constituents, especially those in Ward 7, where Walmart has made threats to pull out of if the Mayor does not veto the bill,” states a press release from the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which is organizing the rally. The release closes, “Can you hear us now, Mr. Mayor!?”
And the answer, it appears, is no. According to mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro, Gray has another commitment tonight and is unlikely to attend the rally. His public schedule makes no mention of the rally or any other event this evening.
UFCW Local 400 spokeswoman Karlyn Williams says Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange (who introduced the bill and shepherded it through committee, respectively) will be attending—-“they’re kind of like MCing it”—-and the rest of the councilmembers were invited but have not responded.
The Large Retailer Accountability Act of 2013 would require large retailers like Walmart to pay a living wage of $12.50 an hour, minus benefits. There’s an opt-out clause for unionized organizations, leading Walmart to charge that union supporters of the bill like UFCW get special treatment.
Walmart spokesman Steve Restivo pre-empted the rally this morning with an email beginning, “At tonight’s labor rally in support of the Large Retailer Accountability Act, you’ll likely hear the usual urban myths about Walmart,” and continuing with a defense of Walmart’s economic record.
UFCW, for its part, tried to claim the mantle of the civil rights movement on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Its email opens with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “A living wage should be the right of all Americans.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery