Experiments with Truth: News

Labor and living wage advocates thwart Wal-Mart in D.C.

The D.C. City Council voted 8-5 on Wednesday to pass a long-awaited living wage ordinance, defying Wal-Mart and its corporate allies, who have lobbied for years to kill the bill. The Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) raises the minimum wage at large retail stores in the district from $8.25 to $12.50.

The bill’s passage marks a victory for an array of local activists who gathered behind it, includingRespect D.C., a group backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).

Although the legislation applies to all retailers with over $1 billion in annual profits and at least 75,000 square feet of indoor store space, it particularly aggravated Wal-Mart, which was planning to build six stores in the city and had begun construction on three.

Beginning in November 2010, Wal-Mart mounted an extensive public relations campaign to earn the support of D.C. residents and politicians for its stores. The blitz peaked on Tuesday with anopinion piece in the Washington Post penned by Wal-Mart regional general manager Alex Barron threatening to drop the plans for the three unbuilt stores if the LRAA passed—a stance Wal-Mart reiterated after the vote. To become law, the measure still needs a signature from Mayor Vincent Gray, who has indicated concerns but has not yet said whether he plans a veto.

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