Walmart has decided to cancel plans for three of its six planned D.C. stores and reconsider the other three if a bill setting a higher minimum wage for large retailers is passed, a company executive just announced.
Minutes after informing Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander that the company would be canceling its two planned stores in her ward, Walmart confirmed in a Washington Post op-ed that it will pull out of its planned stores at the Skyland Town Center, Capitol Gateway, and the intersection of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road NE if the city passes the Large Retailer Accountability Act of 2013. The bill would require large retailers with stores over 75,000 square feet and parent companies grossing at least $1 billion per year to pay a “living wage” of $12.50 an hour, minus benefits.
“Wal-Mart will not pursue stores at Skyland, Capitol Gateway, and New York Avenue, if the LRAA is passed,” Walmart regional general manager Alex Barron writes in the op-ed. “What’s more, passage will also jeopardize the three stores already under construction as we will thoroughly review the financial and legal implications of the bill on those projects.”
The op-ed was published immediately after I reported that Walmart representatives had told Alexander of their plans to cancel the stores.
The D.C. Council is set to take its second vote on the bill tomorrow, after it passed it on an 8-5 first vote last month. If it passes again, it will go to Mayor Vince Gray for his signature. Gray has not stated whether he will sign or veto it. Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo clarifies that the company will withdraw its plans for the three stores if the bill is signed by Gray and becomes law.
“While we will continue to engage with the Council leading up to July 10, we also urge Mayor Gray to veto this discriminatory legislation as it runs counter to every economic development platform his administration has identified as a priority for Washington, D.C.,” Barron writes.
Update 5:45 p.m.: Gray just issued a statement urging the Council to reconsider the legislation but stopping short of a veto threat. “Walmart’s announcement today is immensely discouraging,” he says. “We’ve worked diligently to expand entry-level job opportunities for District residents and end retail leakage to neighboring jurisdictions. The cancellation of three planned stores will surely set us back. I strongly urge the Council to consider whether this legislation will actually promote strong economic development in the District and expand job opportunities for District residents.”
Photo by Aaron Wiener