Walmart would like people to believe that living wage bills by definition have adverse consequences. But the workers of Washington, DC, and a majority on its city council aren’t buying it.
Now, thanks to a report recently issued by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW (RWDSU), living wage supporters have more statistics to support the DC Large Retailer Accountability Act becoming law.
“It proves that living-wage job requirements not only improve work conditions in the city, but do not impair economic development,” said RWDSU President Stuart Applebaum, at the one-year anniversary of the implementation of a New York City law which was enacted despite a mayoral veto.
Moreover, organized labor as a whole is making this an important grassroots issue. The AFL-CIO Executive Council unanimously voted to support the D.C. measure that would require retailers with more than $1 billion in annual sales and with individual facilities of more than 75,000 square feet to pay a living wage of $12.50 an hour.
The DC City Council voted 8-5 to require big box stores like Walmart to pay its employees such a living wage. The retail giant had already started construction on three stores and was readying plans to build three more.
But Walmart would have none of it. As the company did years ago in Chicago when that city’s council passed such a requirement, it said if the bill was signed into law, it would automatically drop plans to build the three stores that have not progressed very far and might even abandon plans to go ahead with the three sites that have gone beyond the planning stage.
Washington Mayor Vincent Gray has threatened to veto the bill. The measure has yet to reach his desk. Nine council votes would be needed to override a veto. (In Chicago, then-Mayor Daley’s veto was upheld and Walmart moved into the city.)
In addition, a report released by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in May reaffirms the RWDSU findings. It stated, “Low wages leave Walmart workers unable to afford the necessities of life, [and] taxpayers pick up the tab.” The report noted one Walmart Supercenter store in Wisconsin “costs taxpayers at least $904,542 per year and could cost taxpayers up to $1,744,590 per year — about $5,815 per employee.”
Wal-Mart is one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world. What it does has an effect on the entire job market. That is why Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO President Joslyn Williams is urging union members and their supporters to contact Mayor Gray to sign the Large Retailer Accountability Act through the internet at http://go.aflcio.org/DClivingwage.
Finally, Walmart’s efforts to enter big city markets have become an issue in the New York City mayoral contest. One candidate, Christine Quinn, stated: “As long as Walmart’s behavior remains the same, they’re not welcome in New York City. New York isn’t changing. Walmart has to change.”