Gray Vetoes D.C.’s ‘Living Wage’ Bill

Jason Dick
Posted September 12, 2013 at 10:42am

Mayor Vincent Gray on Thursday morning vetoed the D.C. Council’s legislation to mandate higher minimum wages for many large retailers.

“I am vetoing this legislation precisely because I believe in providing a living wage to as many District residents as possible — and this bill is not a true living-wage measure,” Gray said in a statement announcing the decision. “While the intentions of its supporters were good, this bill is simply a woefully inadequate and flawed vehicle for achieving the goal we all share.”

Widely viewed as legislation tailored toward Wal-Mart, which is set to open several stores in the District in the coming years, supporters argued that it would guarantee a livable wage for employees.

The legislation would have mandated that retailers with sales of $1 billion or more that operate in spaces 75,000 square feet or larger pay their employees a minimum wage of at least $12.50. The District’s minimum wage is $8.25. The federal minimum wage is $7.25.

“The bill is a job-killer, because nearly every large retailer now considering opening a store in the District has indicated that they will not come here or expand here if this bill becomes law,” Gray wrote in a letter to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. Wal-Mart said it would pull out of planned stores in the District if the measure became law.

The council passed the bill, 8-5, in July, short of a veto-proof margin.