DC Mayor Chooses Wal-Mart Jobs Over Union Demands
by Judy Kent
Washington, DC - After repeated criticism of D.C.'s so-called "living wage" campaign, free market leaders with the National Center for public Policy Research today are applauding D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray's veto of the anti-competitive, jobs-killing legislation.
In July, the D.C. City Council voted 8-5 to approve the "Large Retailer Accountability Act," which would have required "big box" retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot to pay their employees no less than $12.50 an hour, more than $4.00 over the city's existing minimum wage of $8.25. However, the City Council did not hide the intent of their bill to specifically target Wal-Mart - which has no current stores in the nation's capital - as the legislation exempted union shops and had a multi-year delay for retailers such as Home Depot and Costco, which already operate within city lines.
The City Council would need nine votes to override the mayor's veto.
Immediately after the D.C. City Council vote, the National Center issued a press release condemning the result. Justin Danhof, Esq., director of the National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project, railed against the Council, saying:
The Council's hypocrisy is stunning. It claims to be looking out for workers struggling to make a so-called living wage in the District while making a direct attack on those very workers by limiting the creation of new jobs here. Economics 101 says the more jobs that exist, the greater the competition for good workers, the higher wages will be. By killing new jobs on purpose, the City Council is PUSHING WAGES LOWER even as it increases unemployment.
According to the Washington Post, a "coalition of labor unions, city clergy and progressive political activists" backed the bill and urged Gray to approve it.
After the City Council vote, Wal-Mart - which had been working with city leaders for more than a decade to enter D.C. and create almost 2,000 jobs in the region - said it would likely scrap plans for at least three of its six planned stores in the District.
Later in July, Danhof again urged Gray to veto the legislation, noting that "[i]f he cares about staggeringly high youth and black unemployment in the District," he will veto the bill.
"Today, Mayor Gray stood up for the workers and residents of his city. Instead of having to consider traveling outside of the Beltway to purchase groceries, clothes and other necessities, D.C. residents can now shop right in their own back yards, and be assisted by their friends and neighbors who will have stable jobs that the District so desperately needs," said Danhof.
Washington D.C's unemployment rate is 8.5 percent - almost a full percentage point higher than the national average. And according to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, the unemployment rate among black D.C. residents was a staggering 17.8 percent in 2012, and for D.C.'s 16-24 year old population the unemployment rate was 12 percent.
"It was clear that the D.C. City Council was working at the behest of large labor unions to make the District a proxy for a fight with large retailers throughout the country," noted Danhof. "Mayor Gray signaled that D.C would not be ground zero for union payoffs."