Raise the Minimum Wage for Large Retailers

Protests outside Wal-Mart store

Target: Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray

Goal: Raise the minimum wage at large retail stores to $12.50 per hour

The nation’s capitol city council recently passed a wage ordinance, which raises the minimum wage for those who work at large non-unionized retail stores from $8.25 to $12.50 per hour. Wal-Mart, which is already building three stores and planning to erect three more, is threatening to halt plans to settle in the city, meanwhile arguing that it was planning to pay its new employees $13 per hour. Mayor Gray should not hesitate and sign this bill.

To urge the mayor to veto the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA), a regional general manager at Wal-Mart Alex Barron wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post: “Like any business, we have a responsibility to our customers, employees and shareholders to re-evaluate our options when it looks like local rules may significantly change. The LRAA would clearly inject unforeseen costs into the equation that will create an uneven playing field and challenge the fiscal health of our planned D.C. stores.” Mr. Barron then threatens to halt plans to build stores at Skyland, Capitol Gateway and New York Avenue if the LRAA is passed, and possibly three other stores already under construction.

Rev. Graylan Hagler, senior pastor at Plymouth Congregational Church in Northeast Washington said to the Washington Post that the chain promised a starting pay of $13 per hour. The store spokesman Steven Restivo confirmed that the company plans to pay employees in D.C. an average of $12.39 per hour, but also called the council’s initiative an unfair bait-and-switch tactic. “We were just operating under the assumption that the city’s minimum wage would remain in place.”

The truth is that Wal-Mart wants to control people’s wages and tip the scales in its favor to boost sales that fell 1.4 percent in the first quarter of 2013 from that of a year ago. It needs to expand to urban markets like New York, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, D.C. Its success is built by paying its associates a poverty wage, making them turn to welfare programs.

The taxpayer in a way is paying Wal-Mart to create jobs, by subsidizing its workers. A study released by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Industrial Relations shows that the average Wal-Mart worker in California required $730 in taxpayer-funded healthcare and $1,222 in other forms of assistance like food stamps and subsidized housing. The study also underlines that “the jobs created by new Wal-Mart stores generally replace other, often higher-paying jobs, as existing retailers are forced to scale back or go out of business. Stone (1997) found that in the 10 years following the opening of a Wal-Mart, nearby towns lost up to 47 percent of their retail trade.”

There is enough evidence through studies to suggest that Wal-Mart is pushing wages down. For this reason, Mayor Gray should sign LRAA and force the giant to pay a decent wage so that its employees can live off their earnings and not worry about what tomorrow brings.


Dear Mayor Gray,

A new piece of legislation on your desk deserves your signature. The Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) would raise living standards for the working poor and force Wal-Mart to pay a living wage. Since the retail chain already promised a starting pay of $13 per hour, it should be no problem to pay $12.50, like the ordinance mandates.

This legislation would save taxpayers’ money. A study by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Industrial Relations found that an average Wal-Mart worker in California required $730 in taxpayer-funded healthcare and $1,222 in other forms of assistance, such as food stamps and subsidized housing. The chain has become the number one driver behind the growing use of food stamps in the U.S., with as many as 80 percent of its workers on the program, according to a study by Good Jobs First. The study by UC Berkeley also established that jobs at Wal-Mart generally replace other, often higher-paying jobs, because the chain forces other businesses to scale back or go out of business, resulting up to a loss of up to 47 percent of retail trade in nearby towns.

LRAA is a good bill and a driver against poverty. Please sign it without hesitation and improve economic conditions in your city.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Urbanshoregirl via Flickr

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