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D.C. living wage mandate passes despite Walmart threats

D.C. passes the living wage mandate, despite Walmart’s threats to halt construction on new stores, surprising many.

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Walmart weight doesn’t change vote outcome

Walmart delivered a blow to District lawmakers on Tuesday when it announced it would halt plans to open three stores in the D.C area, as well as abandon construction that has already started for three other stores, if a vote went through to approve a ‘living wage mandate.’

However, the D.C. council didn’t let the ultimatum shake their decision to enforce the rule that companies making $1 billion or more in corporate sales, and operating in spaces of 75,000 square feet or larger, must pay employees a minimum wage of $12.50 in D.C. Minimum wage in D.C. is currently set at $8.25.

A surprising miscalculation

Many thought that Walmart’s announcement just 24 hours before the vote would give D.C. lawmakers pause as the retailer is a huge source of jobs and goods sold at a lower price point. These contributions give the retailer a certain amount of clout that it can leverage in influencing legislative decisions. After Alex Barron, a regional general manager for Walmart, stated that the company would halt construction on three planned store sites in the D.C. area if the mandate was passed, U.S. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) called Walmart’s move “immensely discouraging,”

However, final approval came through on Wednesday that will require some large retailers to provide a 50 percent increase over the District’s current minimum wage. Lawmakers acknowledged that even in the face of dissatisfaction and possible retaliation from Walmart, the issue of providing employees with an appropriate living wage is of a higher importance. “The question here is a living wage; it’s not whether Walmart comes or stays,” said council member Vincent B. Orange. “We’re at a point where we don’t need retailers. Retailers need us.”

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At the end of its last fiscal year, Walmart had a reported net income of $17 billion on sales of $470 billion. Company spokesman Steven Restivo says the vote will not deter its decision to forgo starting construction on three new stores in the D.C. area, and that the company will “review the financial and legal implications” of continuing construction on three other stores that are already in the process of being built.

Destiny Bennett is a journalist who has earned double communications' degrees in Journalism and Public Relations, as well as a certification in Business from The University of Texas at Austin. She has written stories for AustinWoman Magazine as well as various University of Texas publications and enjoys the art of telling a story. Her interests include finance, technology, social media...and watching HGTV religiously.

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