Dear PoPville – “Living Wage” Bill vs Walmart?

Rendering for store already under construction at Georgia and Missouri Ave, NW

“Dear PoPville,

I just read the following article about Walmart’s plans to come to DC.

The company says it will kill plans to open three stores in DC and may kill the current ongoing construction of three other stores in DC if the City Council passes a “living wage” bill, which will require “large retailers” to pay about 50% above minimum wage ($12.50/hr vs. $8.25/hr). Do people think this bill is a good idea?

Mendelson says “[L]arge retailers, that have economic power, earnings of a $1 billion or more, they have the ability to pay a wage that comes out to $26,000 a year. That is not very much.” Isn’t it? And who decides how much is not very much?

And if it’s important for workers to be paid a “living wage,” why not make the requirement applicable to every job in the District as opposed to just “large retailers”?”

From Walmart:

The new stores will offer customers a full grocery selection, as well as a full service pharmacy and a wide variety of general merchandise. The size of each store will be between 80,000 and 120,000 square feet, with the first six stores located on:

Ward 4: Georgia and Missouri Avenue NW
Ward 4: Riggs Road NE and South Dakota Avenue NE
Ward 5: New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road NE
Ward 6: 801 New Jersey Avenue NW
Ward 7: Capitol Heights (East Capitol Street and 58th)
Ward 7: Good Hope Road and Alabama Avenue SE

If the LRAA Passes Walmart Will Not Open Stores at Skyland, Capitol Gateway, and New York Avenue

What’s more, passage will also jeopardize the three stores already under construction as we will thoroughly review the financial and legal implications of the bill on those projects. This was a difficult decision and one we arrived at after considerable contemplation. There is no question that Wal-Mart has surpassed the community relations efforts of other retailers seeking to come to Washington, D.C. In response, some members of the Council are fast-tracking a game-changing piece of legislation that challenges our ability to deliver.

271 Comment

  • My opinion: Good. Don’t open here.
    what will happen: They’ll get some special lifetime waiver, tons of tax breaks to open/hire people while paying them less than the acceptable wage…they’ll continue to hand out food stamp applications and the like, ultimately costing the District money. Their on-the-surface low cost items will hurt local businesses, and they won’t at all be responsible to communities they open in. But this will be after they pay off politicians to ensure they get the waiver and tax breaks.
    Capitalism at it’s finest!

    • The Council’s bill is not a “living wage bill”, it’s a bill of attainder. It’s written in such a way that it only applies to Walmart, and maybe a few other stores. They aren’t interested in helping workers, they’re interested in hurting Walmart. It’s disgraceful.

      • The fact it does not apply to just Wal-Mart negates your entire post.

        • have you read the bill? It only applies to companies who make 1B or more a year with a location exceeding something like 75K sq ft. It essentially only applies to walmart.

          • No, it applies to any company that makes more than $1 billion year with a location exceeding 75,000 square feet. Any number of businesses can fit those two categories. Earning $1 billion a year isn’t a characteristic limited to Wal-Mart in retail, nor is having a location larger than 75,000 square feet. As I understand it, Costco is also affected (although I believe they already pay a wage comparable to what LRAA requires). I’m certain there are other potential retailers and potential future anchor stores for large developments that would also fall under this bill.

          • But it grandfathers many existing stores, including Home Depot. This what makes clear that it is targeting Wal-Mart.

          • agree this clearly targets wal-mart. those who support it haven’t read the bill.

    • This is a bluff, plain and simple. The city council cannot be held hostage by a bunch of Arkansawins (Arkansinites?) in ill-fitting suits. Or can they?

      • Arkansans, troglodyte.

        And if you want to see crappy suits, go to the House side of the Hill, not Bentonville, AR. That place is like Potomac, MD, but with more money.

    • ” while paying them less than the acceptable wage”

      Actually, if someone accepts the wage being paid to them, then it is acceptable by definition.

      “Their on-the-surface low cost items will hurt local businesses”

      And help consumers. Which is all of us.

      • “if someone accepts the wage being paid to them, then it is acceptable by definition.”

        Not at all. We have minimum wage laws because policymakers in general disagree with that opinion.

    • Not a fan of Walmart but I think Walmart is getting screwed here. After spending months if not years lobbying to get Walmart here, the DC Council “punishes” them with this legislation. If a living wage was not discussed during those negotiations they shouldn’t pull the “bait and switch” now. Any business should be leery about relocating to DC after this. The Mayor should veto this embarrassing bill from our Clown Council.

      • Agreed. Why are WalMart workers entitled to a $12.50 wage when workers at Starbucks or McDonalds or the Apple stores aren’t? This bill is a clear insult to WalMart and I’m just glad they aren’t pulling out of the H street location (yet).

      • Agree with you 100 percent. These boobs on our city council should be ashamed, not the least of them Marion Barry. How can anyone with even a shred of responsibility for their constituency vote for legislation guaranteed to eliminate the very jobs their voters need? If this baloney doesn’t convince Ward 8 voters that Barry is only interested in his own personal survival and demagoguery, nothing will.

  • while i hate walmart, i can’t understand how this bill would be legal.

  • I think it is fair that minimum wage is dependent on revenue.

    It is not fair to require the same living wage of all retailers as some smaller ones would go out of business. This is supposed to — rightfully so– force large retailers which have had record profits during the recession to pay more which is something they can absolutely absorb financially. If they are willing to is another story.

  • what about it is illegal?
    A number of places have a living wage bill. But most of those places don’t have congressional “oversight”….

    • it’s pretty clear that this bill was written specifically because of walmart. will it affect any other business?

      • Or you might argue it was written based on a recent trend in large global companies moving into the city and making large revenues and paying minimum wage. A lawyer would have no problem saying this is also a reaction to businesses like Home Depot, Target, Giant, etc. moving into the city over the years.

        • “A lawyer would have no problem saying this is also a reaction to businesses like Home Depot, Target, Giant, etc. moving into the city over the years.”

          Then why wouldn’t the law apply to them? Why only Wal-Mart?

      • I think Target, Best Buy, maybe some grocery chains?

        This is just Walmart trying to make a buck for their shareholders, which they are totally right to do.

        Our local government is right to create this bill though.

        I like to think of big business (also banks) as a dog trying to get your sandwich off the coffee table; we all know they want it, we don’t really hold it against them, but we have to stop them from getting what they want. Problem is lately the dog just eats off the table and has become used to it so now he nips your hand when you swat him away from the table.

        Bad dog! Bad Walmart!

        If this is really going to mess up their business model they should open their books to our legislators and show how this pay increase will put them in the red. I’m sure they can work out some kind of compromise, but despite the dramatic whines and puppy dog eyes we all know that dog is not starving…

  • Whether we actually need Walmart is up for debate, but we do absolutely need to be able to provide a living wage to DC residents. Having the ability to provide for yourself will without a doubt help solve many of the social problems ailing many parts of DC. “It’s the economy, stupid.”

    • That’s all well and good. But it should apply to all businesses. And to the DC and Fed government who have, through their contractors, an extraordinary number of employees being paid less than the LRAA would mandate walmart pay.

    • Apply the living wage to all businesses then… Attacking big business doesn’t solve the issue completely of a living wage

      • Ok, then prices go up across the board in line with the “living wage” increases and everyone is in the same position they were before the increase. So then what?

        • actually not everyone is in the same position they were before. the lowest-wage workers now have more relative to higher wage workers. prices rise somewhat but the lowest-wager workers’ wages rise more.

          • And the less-skilled and less-educated workers who aren’t productive enough to merit $12.50 an hour will be unemployed. Happy with that result?

  • Having lived for a time in rural Ohio, I have seen all the wonderful things Walmart can do for a town. Historic downtown store fronts shuttered, strip malls abandoned, and employees of Walmart who need financial assistance to get by while doing all of their shopping in their own store.

  • If a multi-billion-dollar company won’t pay its employees enough to get off food stamps, we don’t need ’em here.

    There is such a thing as social responsibility and good corporate citizenship. For a megacorp like Walmart to pay lowball wages and then ask local government to make up the difference with Food Stamps and Medicaid is definitely not socially responsible.

    Let’s not play Walmart’s “race to the bottom” game.

    • well said. there is no sense of social responsibility as globalization has taken full affect.

    • This is exactly my thought. Walmart has a history of paying lowball wages while encouraging their employees to seek out government assistance.

      • That is one example in a myriad amount of shameful policies Wal-Mart employs. I by no means am against big business having a place even in DC as long as they are socially responsible. People who make more money have to pay more in taxes, it’s just they way it is. I see no problem with making a company that makes billions of dollars every year pay more to their employees in areas where it is much more expensive to live. This company is sick from the head down.

    • Why doesn’t this bill apply to companies like Apple, who has an atrocious record, if that’s the goal?

      • The bill applies to retailers with a location larger than 75,000 square feet. I don’t know if Apple Stores ever get that large, but if they do, the bill would indeed apply to Apple Stores.

        • But their stores aren’t that big, so it doesn’t apply to them. Why? Why not Apple and Starbucks and McDonalds, too, if we’re so worried about living wages?

    • Despite the fact that many of Walmarts employees are on food stamps, the store also has the largest percentage of people on food stamps that shop there because they are able to keep prices so low since they pay such meager wages. I guess the question you have to ask is is it better to pay higher wages but be unaccessable to those with low income or be more accessable to those with low incomes while paying its employees wages that need to be supplemented with welfare.

    • If “lowball wages” is the problem, then why single out one chain to pay at least 50% more than the minimum wage required of every other employers. Geez.

  • If it becomes all of a sudden financially burdensome for Wal Mart to open these three stores by having to pay $4/hour for every employee, then it doesn’t make sense they are opening them in the first place. This is a ploy by Wal-mart. Don’t be fooled. They will make money hand over fist. If they balk at paying $12/hour to work there, we should ask ourselves why we want them in our city to begin with. They are the largest company on earth.

    I’m perfectly fine telling them to take a hike. I’ve seen what Wal-marts do to small towns across this country. I want no parts of them even for $12/hour.

    • There are small towns, and then there is Washington. The ‘mom and pop’ stores that continue to exist (think Fragers) do so because they have succesfully created a niche with good service, relatively comparable goods, and a loyal clientele, aka good business savvy. Those that aren’t around, remain in the majority, start-ups that fail shortly after openning. I wonder how Columbia Heights would be like without the mall today? Buyers dictate which stores prosper, and like the CH Target, these stories will prosper.

      • Which is why the city should feel comfortable requiring them to pay a decent wage in a city like DC.

      • A Wal-Mart is not going to spur economic development like Target, Best Buy and BBY did at DCUSA. Target has built its stores over the years to be a cool, hip brand to the masses. Wal-Mart is not cool or hip.

        • Target is Walmart with better marketing. It’s all bullsh*t. Both stores carry the same brands, one just happens to present it better and charges more for the same cheap crap. This stereotype that Target is better than Walmart is continued by people who think Walmart is “below” them. Don’t be fooled by surface & image. I worked for Target for years and their junk is the same as Walmart’s.

          • Target definitely has better marketing, but I think it’s also delivering a slightly different (if overlapping) product. Practically all my clothes are from Target, and they carry clothes that have a good bit more style than Wal-Mart’s; Wal-Mart’s clothes seem to be oriented toward a more practical shopper, rather than one looking for style.
            It also seem to me that Target is a smaller-scale, more easily managed shopping experience. On the rare occasions I go to Wal-Mart, I find the environment very warehouse-like and intimidating — goods stacked high on the shelves, harsh lighting, etc.

    • Agreed.

      For years WalMart stayed out of cities for whatever reason and now they want to move in because they finally realized it is an untapped market that they were deliberately ignoring (though I was never sure that 4 in DC when several of them were nearly neighbors ever made much sense). This pulling out is a threat pure and simple. If the council thinks this bill is good for all DC citizens then go for it.

      Sure it looks like this bill was targeting big retailers – specifically WalMart – but then WalMart has a history of really low wages. And really low wages aren’t necessarily going to do much for the pocketbooks of employees in DC (or even in Maryland for that matter) living in a very expensive area. $8.50 in Missouri goes farther than $8.25 in DC.

      Heck WalMart might actually have their pick of of good candidates because of this higher salary and not have as much staff churn or less than great staffing options.

  • Is $8.25/hr tough to live on? Sure, it would be tough to make ends meet, but not impossible. FT workers are still eligable for subsidized health care and other incentives, should they work hard. $26K now? Not only is livable, but allows for some luxaries. Let’s meet halfway, and disregard the arguments that start with “workers need more moeny because this city is so expensive” (see ‘entitement society’),

    • Yes, 8.25 in DC is very difficult to live on. And Walmart is notorious for not providing many full time positions in order to specifically avoid having to provide any health care benefits to its employees. Additionally, many of the people who need a decent paying job, and are looking for one, are single mothers who can’t afford to both work full time and access child care.
      There’s a reason Walmart encourages its employees to apply for federal and state benefits.
      If you think someone can live on 8.25 an hour in DC, especially with at least one dependent (and having to pay for your part of health care and all other “benefits”), go ahead and try it. It’s really not easy.

    • Are you crazy? All Wal-Mart has to do to avoid the healthcare and other incentives is not hire people full time. They do it all the time.

    • 26k in dc is in reality poverty.

      mind you that they dont have many full time employees which is a huge hit on the economy. given that they will probably adversely affect mom and pop store and not pay their employees a living full time wage is a double hit to the local economy.

      • I’m sorry, but $26K is not poverty – I’m proving it, and have been for years. By not working FT, that creates more opportunity to earn a second income. As for the issue regarding support for dependents, while tough to stomach, having them is more often than not, a choice. With personal choices like having children, comes responsibilities. Other social programs can help mitigate these issues. Wal-mart is probably not meant to be a social program. (Lovely debate though, by the way)

        • So basically, you’re saying people should be punished for having children, which is totally within their rights as, you know, human beings? Or if you have kids, “Sucks to be you!! Guess you’ll never see them because you need to take on a second/third/fourth job!!” ???? That’s essentially punishment of the children as well.

          I don’t see the problem with ensuring a full-time job (or what is essentially a FT job, regardless of how Wal-Mart classifies it) pays a living wage.

          • No, I’m not saying that at all. I apologize if it was easy for you to create that assumption.

          • If you can’t afford to have children, don’t have children. Very simple.

          • Anon – I believe that to be the response that is most appropriate to the ‘care for dependants’ issue. Again, albeit often times a difficult reality to comprehend, financial stability is something that should come pre-conception.

          • Anon 12:28 pm — I generally agree with your premise, but to make that more of a reality, we need more affordable and readily available contraception, better (in many places) sex education, etc.

        • “Subsidized health care”? “Other social programs”? Who do you think pays for these? I’ll give you a hint, it ain’t Arkansas-based shareholders…

          • My “subsidized health care” comment was made in reference to Wal-Mart absorbing some of the costs for their FT employees, which I have since learned are not as prevolent as I once thought. I did not mean Government subsidized health care, which is what I suspect you meant by your comment. My comment on “other social programs”, albeit in an unrelated comment, did refer to both Government and privately funded programs that offer educational services for those uninformed citizens who require a bit more of a understanding as to the responsibilities of caring for a child. I would argue that these programs are both widely popular amongst taxpayers, and effective.

          • Anonymous 12:24 pm, I am puzzled by your reference to “Government and privately funded programs that offer educational services for those uninformed citizens who require a bit more of a understanding as to the responsibilities of caring for a child. I would argue that these programs are both widely popular amongst taxpayers, and effective.”
            1) Are you talking about parenting classes?
            2) Can you tell me a little more about government-funded parenting classes? Maybe there are some at the state or municipal level, but I’m having a hard time thinking of any major federally funded programs that focus on parenting skills.
            The Washington Post had a good article recently on how D.C. administers its program for child-care subsidies in a truly byzantine way:

          • I was thinking more along the lines of PPFA, and related organizations more concerned with education, as private/government funded entities. While the Post article was great at identifying the flaws of the system, it also highlighted young single mothers of multiple children – something that with proper services, perhaps could have been different.

        • But the $26K is based on getting the $12.50/hr and working 40 hours per week (and, I might add, doesn’t factor in taxes of any kind). So to get $26K a year, they have to work full time which severely limits the hours they could spend at a second job. Not to mention that working a second job at minimum wage probably wouldn’t make financial sense unless they can walk or ride a bike to and from that job.

          Not saying someone couldn’t *possibly* live on that in the district, but let’s be realistic about where the $26K number is coming from.

        • And you sound suspiciously like a lobbyist. Are you also GentrifierNumber6 from Disqus?

          • I only lobby for practical personal finance decisions, living within your means, and fair compensation.

        • Dependents =/= children. They could be elderly or those on disability. It is not rare in that socioeconomic demographic. It is damn near inevitable.

          • Right, “…having them is more often than not, a choice”. The “not” would be those instances where it is not a choice, like the ones you mentioned.

        • A 2nd income from what? The other low-paying, hourly wage jobs?

        • Do you know anyone who works these less than full time hourly jobs? I have a lot of friends and family members who do. They find it very difficult to hold more than one job because their primary employer (in this case Walmart) typically makes scheduling decisions at the very last moment. These big retailers have software that allows them to operate on the finest of staffing margins–so based on some combination of the day of the week, the weather( and who knows what else in the proprietary formula) the store manager gets a print out of the number of person hours required for the next few days. They then schedule their available employees who haven’t yet hit 30 hours for the week based on those requirements.

          It’s not like the good old days when I worked retail and had the same hours/days every week and always had several weeks notice of a change. Back then I COULD work 2 (or even 3) jobs because I had fixed schedules. My mom works for the same retailer that I used to, and her hours are typically scheduled at the very last moment. She never knows if or when she will have a day off or if she will have to work into the evening. That’s bad enough for a 60-something woman with no kids at home, but if you need child care while you work it’s a nightmare, and regardless it makes you a highly unreliable employee for your secondary employer.

    • BUT, Walmart (as a policy) purposely avoids hiring full-time employees and forces their workers to work part time so Walmart can avoid paying their share of health care costs. While managers and some other employees are employed full-time , pretty much all the people you see on the floor are part-time, whether they want to be or not. “How hard they work” has NOTHING to do with the issues here. The fact is Walmart is a shitty corporation: they spend huge amounts of money lobbying for Republican causes, the family that owns it are some of the richest people in the world, they have regularly been shown to discriminate against minorities (woman and blacks), and have used some very underhanded tactics (and in some cases illegal) to fight union membership for their employees. On the other hand, Costco, which runs a very similar business, pays their workers much more (I think the average is about $12.50) has many FULL time workers (thus Costco chips in for their health insurance), and still makes plenty of money. The issue here is that Walmart is getting away with bending federal employment rules at the expense of their workers for the benefit of EXTREMELY rich owners. If the Walton family had any decent sense of moral standards, I think they wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

    • you do realize that $26K is with 12.5/hr not $8.5.
      $8.5/hr makes less than $18K/y

    • Let’s Get Real…I’m sorry, but you don’t know what you are talking about.
      Wal-Mart and most other retailers will not hire full time employees, which is defined as 32 hours a week. That’s $13,728.00, BEFORE taxes.
      I managed retail for 7 years 2002-2009. I never had a full time sales associate. I had one full time assistant manager and two part time assistant managers. My part time assistants and sales associates had NO benefits. (health, vacation-accrual) And we’re surprised when we get into a line at Giant or Wal-Mart and the sales associate is too busy texting on their phone or talking to a coworker.

      • Thank you for the information about retailers not hiring FT workers, I was not aware. But like I mentioned in an earlier post, the opportunity to earn additional income exists when not working what meets your defination of ‘full time’ (which I interestingly enough, like perhaps many others, thought was 40 hrs/wk – even MORE opportunity!). And while understanding that a career as a sales associate may not be admirable or appreciated by some people, I share little sympathy for those that are ‘too busy’ to carry out their defined roles in a company for which they are compensated for, ‘fair’ (as defined by the individual) or not.

        • Actually, it’s pretty difficult to work F/T hours at a retailer and try to get a PT job somewhere else. Your work schedule changes from week to week. You don’t have a set day off. As a manager, when I had the choice of working around a fixed schedule or someone who would give me a variable schedule, the fixed schedule wins every time.
          Also, most national retailers have non-compete clauses. For example, I couldn’t work at Pier 1 Imports and Target because they both sell home furnishings.

          • I’m learning more and more. Am I wrong to think that it would be an infraction for some retailer to restrict employment opportunities towards an individual based on current employment? Regardless, wouldn’t that be diffcult to track? If not against the law, I assume it would be OK for a company to then terminate the employee, should they be made aware. But what is stopping said employee from providing inaccurate information? Simply stated, how would Pier 1 know that I am spending my alternate time at Target?

          • Anon 11:43: Yes, you would be wrong. Non-compete clauses are completely legal. And you are right, you can lie about it, but when your Target coworker walks into Pier 1 or vice versa and you’re busted, you very well may lose both of your jobs.

          • Exactly – you’ve heard of “just-in-time manufacturing”? we also have “just-in-time staffing.” i’ll keep you on the payroll with 5 or ten hours a week, so i can quickly ramp up staffing during busy seasons. It’s a scheduling nightmare for the employee, but for the employer – if you can’t work 30 hours next week I’ll just move on to the next person on the list. Someone said it before – everyone should have to work in retail at least once.

          • anongarnener–Retail and/or food service—AMEN

          • I surely do need a taste of these practices to understand them! Retail, food service, janatorial, any other professions to add to the list?

        • What MtPleasantDeej says — having an employer who hires/schedules you for _close_ to full-time work — but not _quite_ full-time work — doesn’t mean additional “opportunity” to earn money via a second job, because of the scheduling issues. And not having benefits/health insurance might not seem like a big deal if you’re young, healthy, and have no dependents, but it’s a pretty big deal if you’re not. Even if you _are_ young, healthy, and have no dependents, lack of health insurance can quickly become a big deal if, say, you’re in a serious car or bike accident.

          • Shit, I got cancer at 25 and I was young, healthy, and with no dependents. I’m a model case of why EVERYONE should have health insurance.

        • don’t feed the PR flack people

    • It would be very tough to make ends meet, especially in a high-cost city like DC, and next to impossible without government assistance. $8.25/hr at 40 hours per week for the entire 52 weeks per year comes out to about $17,000–and as other commenters have pointed out, that is making the extremely optimistic assumption that a Walmart employee is able to work that full 40 hours every single week of the year, when in fact it’s a widespread tactic to keep employees at under 32 hours per week to avoid making them eligible for what already-meager health benefits the company might provide. Additionally, non-unionized big-box retail (not just Walmart) is notorious for uneven, or “just in time” scheduling on a week-to-week basis. For employees, this means they might be scheduled to work 30 hours one week, 15 hours another week, 10 hours another week, and so on; or in some cases scheduled for a full-day 8-hour shift, but sent home halfway through (giving up half a day’s pay) if business is slow. (The merits of unions is a discussion for another time, but I referenced it just to make the point that union shops typically offer more regular schedules for full-time employees). Retail employees are often also given “on call” days, when they’re supposed to be ready to drop everything and come into the store for work if needed, but can’t schedule anything else for themselves and of course don’t get paid if they don’t end up getting called in. Needless to say, this all creates incredible income volatility for workers, and also makes it difficult for someone to juggle a second job to supplement their income. Walmart *wants* to come to DC, and the Council should use whatever leverage they have in order to boost the quality of jobs the retailer offers; if Walmart didn’t really want or need to come to DC, they’d just shrug and walk away, instead of *threatening* to walk away and making a big stink about a potential living wage bill. A bill like this basically draws a line in the sand and tells a mega-retailer like Walmart that we are no longer going to subsidize their profits in the form of taxpayer money that’s funding food stamps and housing vouchers because Walmart wages don’t pay people enough to afford basic necessities. Most cities are too scared to do this, but I really think it’s a big game of “chicken” and if DC held firm, eventually Walmart would bend.

  • DC should pass it and call Wal-Mart on it’s bluff. Many countries in Europe have living wage bills and in some countries Wal-Mart must pay its employees 11-12 Euros per hour. Wal-Mart wouldn’t be in those countries if it wasn’t profitable.

    Wal-Mart is full of crap on this one. They are coming to DC since it will be profitable, with or without a Living Wage bill. Of course, they would love to maximize their profits.

    Additionally, having more restrictive regulations based on size isn’t illegal. We regulate banks that way – the largest, most complex banks face much stricter and more expensive regulations than smaller banks that have a VERY significant effect on the profits of large banks. Wal-Mart is a huge employer and their low wages have a very real & distortionary effect on the American & local economies. There’s no reason why the DC government could not enforce this, as the precedent is already there at the federal level.

  • If people make 50% more, they spend more. This helps everyone, not just the employees making the living wage. The only benefit by not paying them $12/hour goes to Wal-Mart shareholders.

    • Econ 101. Higher wages brings price inflation. Costs for everyone go up. That is fine if wages go up due to a tight labor market or skilled labor. However, passing a law creates neither. Forcing a 50% increase for your most unskilled employees crowds out those who would most benefit from a minimum wage job: those without education or basic skills.

  • In recent years, all the political (and business) talk has been about “the job creators!” We have forgotten about workers. People who are struggling to make ends meet with 2 or 3 part-time low-paying jobs. Walmart’s response to this proposed legislation is reprehensible. Paying workers $12.50 an hour isn’t going to put them out of business. Where did the social contract go? Do people even know what that is anymore?

    • No, because rich white Republicans have convinced poor white and black folk that they might one day be rich and so they should not want the government telling their employers how much is an acceptable wage to pay for work. All the while stuffing more and more of our money in their bank accounts, while the rest of the country lives on just enough to keep shopping at places like Wal Mart and never having much more in life than that.

      • To be honest, it’s really poor, working and barely middle class white folk. Blacks aren’t fooled by this (other than Herman Cain). We’ve always been the canaries in the coal mine.

  • thebear

    This should apply to *all* businesses, including restaurants and healthcare. The District should then take the public assistance money that won’t have to go to under-compensated workers and put that into attracting, growing, and keeping local retail and service businesses to keep out national chains. This city is too fast becoming as bland and nondescript as NYC and San Francisco by erasing local flavor, flair, and just good old quirkiness and funkiness.

    • As bland as NYC or San Francisco? Maybe I didn’t pick up on the irony, but both of those cities are chock full of independent retailers and eateries and noticeably less dominated by chains than other cities in the United States, including Washington, in which there is a chop’t/roti/potbelly/cosi (insert dozens of other chains that don’t pop up in my head right now).

  • the response is usually, “they should be greatful they have a job!”

  • I dislike Walmart and absolutely think that a living wage should be mandated. But I think it’s insane to grandfather existing large retailers, essentially targeting this increased wage at Walmart. Also, I think the difference between the minimum wage and the living wage may be a little high. What about starting the living wage around $10.50 and, over the course of a few years, increasing both the minimum and living wages to about $10.50/$12.50, respectively?

    • yes. If creating a living wage is a goal DC wants to achieve, it should do so openly and honestly and require all employers to do so. This bill is targeted at walmart because, as people on this chain have made clear, there is much animosity toward the company. That’s also well and good. But if DC doesn’t want walmart because it’s walmart, ban the company from coming to town. Don’t pull this backhanded BS.

    • Under the proposal other retailers are not grandfathered in. Like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Macy’s and Costco, (the other retailers with stores over 75,000 sq ft) would have 4 years to implement the wage increase, and Cosco already pays there workers that.

    • Exactly. If $12.50 is considered a living wage, every employer in DC should have to pay it. Not just the ones we don’t like or the ones that we think are in a better position to afford it. I’m no fan of Wal-Mart, but it’s nauseating how small businesses get a pass because of some b.s. ideal that they are more genuine, more reflective of the community, or treat their employees better. Size and/or revenue is not indicative of an of those things.

  • I hope the Council passes the bill, if only to keep as many Walmarts out of DC as possible. But they’re not stupid – holding Skyland hostage is a hardball tactic and probably will cause the Mayor to oppose the bill.

  • I don’t think we need 6 Walmarts in DC. Over saturation. Although I suppose time will tell if it is truly over saturation. I don’t plan to shop at Walmart because they don’t really appeal to me. But I do admire their stance on Unions. Bravo to them in that regard…

    • i was anti union but not after seeing how walmart and large companies even bully policy makers.

      i think unions are a good thing

      • Agreed. I say this all the time. Unions are no different than shareholders. Everyone has a vested interest and just different ways of going about it. And there are thousands of laws that protect the interests of shareholders.

      • I mentioned this in a comment above, but one thing unions can really help with in retail is scheduling stability. I remember reading a case study about a Macy’s in New York that unionized (I think it was Macy’s), and probably none of the workers are getting rich off fat wages–it’s still retail, after all–but a key benefit was that the company instituted an online, worker-oriented scheduling system. Full-time employees have dibs on regular shifts according to seniority, and I think can schedule out several months in advance. Then, for the remaining shifts that need to be filled, the segment of the workforce that isn’t full time and doesn’t need a set schedule–for example, people like retirees, stay-at-home moms whose kids are in school all day, holiday temp workers, etc. who are using the job as a means to make a little extra side income and not as a means of primary support–can schedule themselves.

    • walmart is famous for opening more stores than a community can support specifically to drive out local competition, and then shutting their excess stores down once they have put local stores out of business so that residents have no choice but to go to one of the remaining walmarts. that’s probably what their tactic here is.

    • Agreed with the over saturation. The two ward 4 stores are not far apart at all, and I live right in between. Target started with one store and people seem to travel to them. I’m sure Wal-mart would do well with 3 stores, just don’t kill the ones in the same area.

  • What Walmart will or won’t do should not cloud the question whether passing a living wage bill is a good thing or not. And as an aside, how many Walmarts does DC need anyway?

  • I am going against the tide here and saying this is an asinine move that tells large retailers that DC doesn’t want your stores. I know most of you want small and local, but I would rather be able to have my sales tax staying in DC than in the burbs and I like shopping at larger stores. This living wage bill affects more than Walmart and will ultimately cost DC the anchor stores that we need for redevelopment to come in. My first job in DC wasn’t hourly but it still only paid $22k a year so I got a second job. For a lot of people, Walmart would be that second (or third) job but not if they don’t open.

    • Agreed. How many non-profit/Hill jobs only pay in the $20K-30K range, and those jobs require a college degree. If you are talented and work hard, you will move up quickly and earn more money. No one is entitled to a $26K/year job.

      The bill offers a generous grandfather period to retailers like Costco and Home Depot while offering exceptions to unionized places like Safeway and Giant. If it’s about “fairness,” than the unions would have to follow the same guidelines. Let Walmart exercise their right to relocate and take the several hundred jobs they planned to offer with them. That only hurts DC residents who will lose the opportunities for jobs and the ability to shop at a low-cost retailer and grocer in their own neighborhood.

      • The addition of a Walmart will not necessarily generate additional jobs, all it does is adds a new retailer to the area. If Walmart does well and takes business from other stores, those stores will shut down or cut jobs, thus it is feasible that Walmart may not add any additional jobs.
        Also, a lot of development doesn’t depend on large chain “anchor stores.” If there is money to be made, other retailers will come in. I think this is a good move!

        • So adding Wal-Marts in neighborhoods that have neither grocery stores nor retail outlets will “not necessarily generate additional jobs”? When was the last time you tried shopping east of the Anacostia?

      • ” If you are talented and work hard, you will move up quickly and earn more money.”

        spoken like an overprivileged yuppie who’s experienced nothing but good luck. people who live in the real world know that this may happen sometimes, but that it is not necessarily the norm and is certainly not a guaranteed outcome of hard work.

    • If the market is there for these big boxes, someone will open one in those places if Wal-Mart doesn’t. It isn’t like paying $4 more/hour all of a sudden makes these projects unprofitable. Give it a year and Target will move in where Wal-Mart won’t. Or Wal-Mart will change its mind. Stop giving them the power.

  • “we will thoroughly review the financial and legal implications of the bill on those projects. ”
    in other words DC can never increase the minimum wage because WM based their plans on $8.5/hr.
    This is the first sign of WM evilness and they’re showing their true colors. It shouldn’t have been allowed into the city in the first place but now that they’re already here I say just pass the law. See where else they can open new stores in the area.
    It’s not enough that their employees are working poor on food stumps and Medicaid and now WM is fighting to not pay them an extra couple hundred dollars a month.

    I would like to see the min. wage go up to 12.50 citywide. I ‘d gladly pay an extra dollar for my sandwich.

  • My opinion is that all retailers should be held to the same standard, regardless of size. If how much profit a business makes becomes the determining factor, then we start approaching socialism…

    Bottom line, hundreds or thousands of minimum wage jobs would be better than no additional jobs.

    • we already “approach socialism” in about a thousand different ways that benefit big companies way more than small ones. take a look at the tax code. how else do you think a company like Apple manages to pay practically nothing in taxes. and if they pay nothing in taxes, but still use things like roads that are paid for by taxes, then that too “approaches’ socialism. and that’s just one example

  • “If a multi-billion-dollar company won’t pay its employees enough to get off food stamps, we don’t need ‘em here.”
    So why isn’t that true for every business? Why should any business be allowed to pay its employees so little that they have to resort to food stamps?
    What’s being proposed is not a bill that guarantees every worker a living wage, it’s a bill that guarantees some workers – defined by subjective and somewhat arbitrary criteria – a living wage.
    And how many people are prepared top pay more for their goods and services when the increased cost of labor is passed on to the consumer – which is what always happens. I’ve heard lots of businesses justify their higher prices by citing natural ingredients and handcraftsmanship but I’ve not heard of a business defend their prices by saying “we pay our employees a ‘living wage.'”

  • Will Target also be impacted by this law? That would only seem fair.

  • Walmart: Time to put on your big boy pants!

  • Personally, I’d love for this to pass. It might make the Target and Giant employers of choice for those who work customer service, and maybe the service wouldn’t be so god awful all the time, because they’d be able to fire the people who are terrible at their jobs and replace them with more motivated employees.

  • Pass the living wage bill and do not grandfather in existing corporations.

  • The big issue here is that this is NOT like a state, say Florida, passing a living wage bill, where if Walmart wants access to consumers in Miami or Ft. Lauderdale or Orlando they have to open stores there and just pay it. In a jurisdiction as small as DC, there is nothing stopping Walmart from opening those same two stores planned in Ward 7 a measly two miles away in Maryland with no living wage requirement. Those Ward 7 & 8 customers will still shop there. They’ll just drive two miles to do it.

    So, I think the bigger question, and something I have not seen anyone put forth any formal analysis on, is this: What is the total amount of fiscal impact Walmart has on the city if they pay $8.25 per hour and open all six stores? What is the total impact if they open three stores at $12.50? What is the impact if they open no stores at all in DC and open more in Maryland? Let’s have a look at those numbers and then make some sound choices. So, for example, using nice simple small numbers (purely for illustration, not meant to be accurate in any way), Walmart opening all six stores at $8.25 per hour might generate $15 per year in property taxes, $10 per year in wage taxes, $60 per year in sales taxes, and $15 per year in “other economic benefits” for a total of $100 per year. However, by keeping an extra 1,000 low-wage jobs in DC and forcing those employees to depend on government subsidies to make up the difference, they COST the District $45 per year. So the net gain is $55. If they only open half the stores, we would assume half the revenues, or $50. However, by paying a living wage, perhaps the subsidies needed go down by more than half, to say $20. A net gain of $30 is actually better, in my opinion. However, if that net gain is only $15, that’s worse. I’d love it if someone who was far better with math than I am over at the CFO’s office could figure these things out, put it in a handy chart, and then let us make choices from that.

    • I agree that DC is at a disadvantage in that the District is small, and Walmarts in neighboring jurisdictions could be more or less as accessible to DC consumers. But Walmart’s main motivation for fighting this law is NOT the concrete impact that a higher wage would have on their potential DC store profits, it’s the precedent that a law like this would set. If Walmart was worried only about store profitability, they’d just say “screw it, we don’t need this hassle from the Council hanging over our heads…we’ll just wash our hands of the whole DC plan, walk away, and build more stores in neighboring MD and VA suburbs.” But the reality is, they’re scared sh*tless that if a law like this passed in DC, it would put a crack in Walmart’s armor and potentially embolden more jurisdictions to try for similar laws.

  • “You know what, Stan, if you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, like your pretty boy over there, Brian, why don’t you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?”

    If the DC council wants the minimum wage to be 12.50 make the minimum wage 12.50, this seems like a bill of attainder.

    • Because that negatively impacts small business that don’t make tens of billions of dollars every year. On what principle is it based that the law must ignore the size and revenue/profits of the employers in question other than you think that for some reason sounds “fair.” If a minimum wage law is acceptable, there’s no reason it has to be uniform to all employers. There’s no reason a polity can’t decide that if you make X dollars a year, you must pay employees Y. All that does is puts smaller businesses and new businesses on more equal footing with these giant retailers. And still allows the giant retailers to compete amongst themselves instead of against small mom and pop retailers.

  • 1. Why is the current minimum wage any less suitable for Walmart employees than it is for anyone else? The city should reevaluate its minimum wage, period. The idea behind raising a minimum wage is that if everyone earns more everyone spends more and businesses make more, etc. Doing it to just a select few employers is ridiculous.

    2. While I’m not a fan of what Walmart has done to small businesses, a large retailer can also be a boon for an area. Target at Cohi is a pretty obvious example.

    3. It’s also not unsafe to assume if the DC Council is trying to get something pushed through these days it’s probably a terrible idea.

    • It’s a boon in the area if you’re the white person who wouldn’t live in CoHi until they put in a Target. And you aren’t living on $8.25/hour there. Meanwhile those people who lived there before the Target are now living in SE or in Maryland. It’s a boon, but it isn’t necessarily a boon for the people who were renting in CoHi before the Target went in there.

      • Its a windfall for the people who bought a house for next to nothing and saw the price inflate before deciding to take the money and move to SE or MD.

      • And its a boon to the city council members who now get to waste even more tax revenue on stuff like fully-loaded SUVs and embezzled grants to children’s charities. So let’s keep out Wal-Mart to improve the ethical standards on the city council!

  • Take a look at the locations of these proposed stores – especially the three being potentially scrped. No other retailer is signing up to serve these underpriviladged areas. There are people who worked hard to bring Wal-Mart to these areas and now Council wants to run them out. How about the people in these communities who need a eoncomic grocery store that can provide jobs at the same time?

    • If Wal-Mart is doing it, it isn’t for charity. It’s because they will make money there. If they can make money there, so can others. The free market principles you all seem to love so much work the other way too you know. Wal Mart is not in the business of doing underprivileged communities a favor.

      • Really, free market? Walmart has received billions of dollars in government subsidies in the form of everything from tax breaks, free land, job training funds, sales tax rebates, tax credits and infrastructure assistance, including investment in roads. This does not even count the millions of dollars it costs taxpayers to subsidize the cost of health insurance and food stamps for their employees.

      • Duh, of course they aren’t doing charity. My premis is don’t these communities deserve a retailer in their neighborhood? Who else is willing to come and where are they????????

        • I think Duponter’s comment was meant to say now that Walmart has worked out a pro forma that proves there is profit to be made in those areas, other companies that might not have looked there before might look there now, since the case has been made that stores there can be profitable and now Walmart would not be in those locations to provide competition for that profit.

          Which, by the way, I think is spot on.

      • Neither is a small business. Capitalism is capitalism. Dolla dolla bill ya’ll.

    • hello wal-mart PR

  • What is unemployment in wards 7 and 8? Like 20%? I understand in principle that we don’t want Walmart, but people need jobs. Even bad paying jobs. A job is better than nothing. It’s easier for us employed folks who don’t need inexpensive goods from Walmart, but we should also be mindful that our liberal desires may not align with reality.

    • Jason, You assume that introduction of Walmart would lead to more net jobs, however study after study shows that the introduction of a big box store like Walmart result in a net job loss for a given region. (See And of course this makes sense. As one Forbes Magazine business and technology contributor so plainly argued “Of course WalMart destroys retail jobs. That’s the dang point!” ( )

    • I totally hear what you’re saying, and I think that’s what makes these kinds of debates so difficult. The reality is, we’re at a point where many people are desperate for a job–ANY job–as are local governments, and it is really hard to tell those people “nope, we’re going to hold out in principle and in the service of a longer-term goal of creating better employment opportunities.” Even if blocking Walmart would be better in the long run, some people need jobs NOW and that’s a hard thing for local governments to turn down. Having said that, I really think that corporations like Walmart have been playing hardball for YEARS, and now local officials should, too. Think about it: Walmart needs cities more than cities need it. If they want to keep growing, where are they going to add stores? The company has already more or less cannibalized rural areas, exurbs, and now suburbs; those markets are close to saturation. What’s left are the urban markets–cities are at a point where they have a little leverage to exert on Walmart and its business model, and they shouldn’t waste it.

  • “Yes, this,” to the comments others have made regarding Walmart’s business model. They’re like a cross between a Victorian workhouse and a company store.

    Good on the DC Council for not wanting to give Walmart a free pass. I hope they stay committed to the regulation. Especially since Walmart goes out of its way to avoid paying any kind of benefits to its workers, frequently resorting to hours-worked chicanery to have as few employees as possible attain full-time-worker status. It’s not as though Walmart will suddenly start giving the employees of their DC stores 40 hours a week if their hourly rate is allowed to be $8.25.

    $12.50 an hour at 30 hours is just barely above minimum wage for a standard full-time job, but it’s a heck of a lot better than $8.25 an hour at 30 hours.

    Walmart’s arguments against DC’s law remind me strongly of the claims some companies (or entire industries) make about how Americans aren’t willing to do the jobs they have on offer.

    It’s not that Americans aren’t willing to do those jobs. Americans are unwilling to do those jobs at unlivable wages, with no benefits, and in questionable-to-dangerous conditions.

  • Can’t wait for all six to open up, I’m super excited, I hope to attend all six grand openings. Cheap milk, cheap plants, cheap tide laundry detergent, cheap pills, cheap lamps, cheap motor oil, I can’t wait!

  • Let’s see….. WalMart made over $15 BILLION last year, and they can’t afford a $12.50 livable wage for its employees? Mmm, what’s that Justin Timberlake song? “Cry me a River”? Poor WalMart… Boo Hoo.

    Let’s face it, the minimum wage will go up, it is just a matter of time. Frankly, I would not want the Lincoln Memorial to share the same airspace as a company who bemoans the fact they might have to actually pay their employees a livable wage.

    • The trade off isnt whether they make those profits, its whether they raise prices or offer an even further inferior product. Profits and executive pay are the last place they’re going to take a hair cut.

      So, the trade off is: should low income earners make more money or spend less money on necessities?

      If you have a simple answer to this, you’re not thinking about it enough.

  • This is the combination of my two least favorite things in government. Shitty half baked policy proposals and big business assuming the whole world is dumb and just needs them so badly and then uses scare tactics to get what they want.

    Its a circus.

  • I made $26,000 when I was 22 (4 years ago) and lived in DC. I was just fine. Sure I had to eat a lot of rice (bought a 50 lb bag) but I made it work. If you have discipline then you can do it. Stop buying cheetos and cable tv. They are luxury items, we have gotten to the place where people expect to make $50k at a place like Walmart that comes with all of the luxury life brings. Get a skill and use it, make money that way. Being a cashier at walmart deserves miniumum wage because you are doing the least amount of wokr possible.

    • So, just to clarify, 12.50 an hour would be $25,000 in 2013 dollars. Your 26,000 dollar salary in 2009 has the same buying power as a $27,775 salary now.

      So, this minimum wage bill would bring their salaries up to almost 3,000 bucks under what you made 3 years ago.

      And, it seems you’re actually arguing against the bill under the mistaken impression that walmart checkers make 26,000 now.

    • Good for you surviving on just rice. What if you have young children and can’t find a job anywhere BUT WalMart, can your children just eat rice? Why must you assume all people with low incomes eat so poorly by choice? Perhaps if they had a livable wage, they could afford healthier options?

      And as for skills – A friend’s mom was out of work for while and despite being over 50 and having lots of work experience, the only job she could find was WalMart & she still could not make ends meet. She also worked lots of overtime, was yelled at if she dared take sick leave, and saw younger men with less skill promoted over her.

      • rice, beans, veggies, and water is cheaper than frozen pizza, cheetos, and kool-aide

        • You don’t buy veggies if you think that’s the case.

          • are you kidding me? Sure veggies can be expensive but you get a lot more for fresh broccoli than frozen…

          • Anonymous 1:46 pm, what do you mean by “you get a lot more for fresh broccoli than frozen” — you get more in terms of quantity? (Are we now talking about fresh vs. frozen? I thought this argument was about the expense of healthy food vs. unhealthy food.)

            Hasn’t it been well-established that there are chunks of D.C. that qualify as “food deserts,” i.e., places where fresh produce is difficult to obtain for people who don’t have cars (to drive elsewhere) or much money (to take public transportation elsewhere)?

            And regarding water specifically: Now that the bottled-water industry has bamboozled people into thinking that U.S. tap water is somehow not quite safe, I see lots of water bottles in street litter, not just soda/alcohol cans/bottles.

        • you could not be more incorrect.

    • Oh yeah, well I made 17,800 dollars in 2012 so there!

    • Sure, some poor people have questionable priorities — junk food, satellite TV, etc. But this bill isn’t about people’s behavior and what they choose (albeit sometimes unwisely) to spend their money on; it’s about Wal-Mart and other retailers that can easily afford to pay their employees a “living wage” but don’t.

  • Walmart, don’t let the door hit you in the rear!
    I hope this regulation passes.

  • the wal-mart sock puppets are out in droves!

  • The issue he is whether they are paying their employees appropriately for the work they are doing. Why is a cashier at Walmart entitled to $4 more/hour than a cashier at some small local business? Sure it would be nice for Walmart to offer its employees more because it can afford to do so, but I see no reason why it should be forced to pay more just because it is a big retailer. If the city wants to raise the minimum raise across the city, then so be it., but targeting only big retailers is stupid. As someone else already mentioned, they will just force these businesses into the suburbs and the city will lose out on all the jobs. These jobs do not require any sort of skill, so they should be compensated accordingly.

    • Also, having grown up in the burbs and moved into the city (8 years ago), I can say that the typical retail employee in this city deserves less than those in the burbs. Customer service in this city is horrible.

      • Have you ever thought that perhaps customer service is worse because they don’t get paid very well–better employees go somewhere they can get paid more.

        • A cashier and McDonalds, no matter where they are is starting at minimum wage, so why then is the cashier friendlier, more attentive, faster, etc. in locations out of the city than in the city? It is called work ethic.

    • “These jobs do not require any sort of skill” is one of the biggest misconceptions that keeps people from feeling any sort of solidarity or empathy with low-wage workers (not to mention, it smacks of elitism). Think for a minute about the types of tasks that many low-wage workers perform. I’m not saying every employee deploys these skills *well*, but…customer service is a skill, standing on your feet for 8 hours a day and scanning groceries as quickly as possible while operating a cash register and maybe remembering hundreds of weight codes for produce/bulk items/etc is a skill, scrubbing bathroom spotless and re-making beds just so as a hotel maid is a skill, and so on. Are these the same skills as an engineer or an IT person or a Hill staffer uses? Perhaps not. But there are plenty of “better”-educated people who probably couldn’t hack it for a week in a so-called “no-skilled” job. Just because some skills were more expensive to obtain, doesn’t mean they’re inherently less important to the economy than ones that command less money in the workplace.

      • Its and issue of supply and demand. Not everyone can write a computer program. Pretty much everyone can clean a toilet. They may not want to clean toilets, but they can do it. The concept of “skilled labor” is relative to others. If everyone can do it, it is not a marketable skill.

  • I hate Walmart, and its practices, as much the next person, but why is a wage only livable if your employer makes a certain amount of revenue/profit? If the DC Council believes it has found the true livable wage, then it should apply to all wages.

    • as a small business owner i really don’t feel that i should be forced to pay a 17 year old that lives at home more than the minimun wage to sweep my floor and sort things.

  • Walmart didn’t want to open those Ward 7 stores anyway — this is a great excuse for them not to.

  • I really hope this passes. Take a look at these letter from real-life Walmart employees and tell me you think opening 6 (!) stores in DC is a good idea.

  • andy

    this is a little bit of social contracting between those of us in the higher income brackets and those down the line, wage-wise. We spend at Wal-Mart to our consumption cheap, and you should get a wage that lets you shop there too. I think Wal-Mart wants my upper income money enough to pay DC residents a living wage. If they can’t, I’ve got a Target near the house as well as a car. Love me, love my city.

    • Huh? So you won’t shop at Walmart but you will at Target (that pays minimum wage) or drive to MD or VA to spend your money there? Your love makes no sense.

      • andy

        I just mean that Wal-Mart really wants to come to me, and as DC residents we are not forced to accept their terms because they have competition.

  • I LOVE WALLY-WORLD! Fact is i’m poor and Wal-Mart has the best prices. I WANT and NEED that option in my neighborhood. Sorry I can’t affort to travel to your yuppie NW neighborhoods and shop at Whole Foods. I know plenty of youths who will take a Wal-Mart job (have you seen the unemployment rate for the black youth?) We’ll take what we can get.

    • hello walmart pr

    • Your unemployed neighbor that takes a job at Wal-Mart and becomes the working poor probably doesnt’ feel the same about Wal-Mart.
      Wal-Mart sells crap and pays its workers crap while returning massive profits to its shareholders.
      They are terrible corporate citizens.

  • jim_ed

    I’m not opposed to making billion dollar retailers pay a fair wage, but this bill stinks.

    1. Why are unionized stores exempt? If you have a CBA you can pay less? This seems like a callous cop-out to union voters.

    2. Why the sq footage provision? Apple is one of the world’s most profitable company(and a tax scofflaw), but their stores would almost certainly be under 75,000 sf, so they shouldn’t have to pay a living wage? We’re all cool if Radio Shack pays it’s employees $9.50 an hour to sell you the same phone Wal-Mart or Best Buy would pay its employees $12.50 an hour to sell? That legislates a huge competitive advantage for absolutely no reason.

    3. Why not apply it to all existing stores as well? Why would Lowe’s come into DC and open a store if Home Depot can beat them in pricing because they have 25% less payroll overhead?

    This bill seems so short-sighted and not well thought out. It gives the perception that DC is a hostile retail environment, and all the waffling on it makes the Council look like a bunch of schmucks, which will be amplified when Mayor Gray vetoes it.

  • Has anyone looked at this from a political standpoint? Look who sponsored the legislation. Mendelson (running for mayor), by putting this on the table, can claim he is man of the people if the City Council vote yes or no. Mendelson looks good again if the mayor vetos or signs. If the mayor signs, he is seen as a job and development killer. If he veto’s, he will be unfriendly to working class DC.

    I believe this to be more a political move otherwise the Council would have worked some other deal to ensure the three other stores get built in return to an increase in minimum wage. There is no good in a last minute torpedo. Walmart looks like crap from trying to flight it, Ward 5 loses out on a couple stores, the mayor has to make a choice between constituencies.

  • Thank goodness…. Keep that sh*t in the burbs… we don’t need no stinkin Walmart!

    • so you buy everything from something local? even your clothes? or car? or bike? you probably feed into the corporate machine just like everyone else. you have a bank acct right?

      • it’s cute trolling you’re attempting, but comparing other sources of goods to walmart is to not understand walmart.

  • It’s funny all you liberals decry Walmart so much for their excessive profits, yet your sacred government “safety nets” feed the Revenue stream

    This is about standalone profit centers, not Corporate Profits. If the living wage bill passes, overhead increases, and prices will be higher at these stores…hurting all the other little people who make minimum wage.

    • You are assuming that a retailer will pass the costs on to consumers rather than take them out of (very high) corporate profits. Maybe they will or maybe they won’t. A retailers that has a business model built entirely around low prices may be limited in how much it feels it can pass through to consumers without affecting its profits in a different way. Your point isn’t “Logic”; it’s assumption.

  • Why stop at $12.50? How about $22.50, or $225.00!

    Or, how about what you are worth in the marketplace. Not worth much? Who’s to blame for that…

    • What do you do thats so valuable in the market place?

      Did you get those skills all on your own? I bet you didnt.

  • Raising the minimum wage is one thing, but creating a new, special wage for particular businesses is quite another.

    If the Council really wanted to help raise wages for low-income, low-skill workers in the District, why does the bill exempt all but a handful of retailers?

    Seems like a remarkably ham-handed political stunt.

  • If a living wage is so important that it should be mandated for ALL jobs in DC. this bill is definitely aimed at Walmart. Bascially DC has failed at education and job training so they expect walmart to create living wage employment.
    Here is what really don’t get, since when did society expect no-skill retail jobs to be able to support families? A retail job that doesn’t even require any skill pass 8th grade should be nothing more than a stepping stone. No one in their right mind should think, “hey I got a job at walmart as a greeter, Im set for life”–they need to be thinking, “this kind of sucks, what do I need to do to move up in life”-…
    And yes it affects all major retailers. Home Depot. Target etc are grandfathered in for a “period of time” etc.
    I dont think Walmart is bluffing because it would set a bad precedent in other cities if they cave on this.

    • +1. Many of the comments on this posting reflect a total lack of understanding about how economics works. I’d blame the school system, but people just seem more inclined to choose their emotions over reason. Man, everyone should be required to read Atlas Shrugged. Keep on chasing the producers and creators out of your life and tell me how that works out.

      • I can’t believe anyone tries to use Atlas Shrugged in a conversation about real world Economics. The concept of the entire book fails if the handicapped aren’t immediately euthanized.

        • Have you read the book? There’s nothing that annoys me more than a person self-righteously denouncing a book when he or she has never read. Summaries and a review you read on a website don’t count. I would not take the book literally, and I personally find Rand herself a bit too harsh for my Catholic sensibilities. However, the overall message is something worth pondering and considering. There’s a reason Atlas Shrugged is number 2 to the Bible in most influential books for people (Book of the Month Club members survey). If I could sit through an entire semester’s worth of classes on Marxism and Progressivism, others should be able to have an open mind enough to read Atlast Shrugged. I still don’t agree with all of her philosophy, but there is value there.

          • Yeah I read the unabridged version by audiobook during about a month of commuting. It was surprisingly fun for the first 1/3 or so before Rand “derails” and starts just repeating her thesis every 100 pages instead of moving the plot.

            While I understand the intended “value” of what she’s trying to say, the overall message is completely irrelevant because its set up in a bubble where only a fully capable working class exists. When that happens (ie. never), I guess I’ll phone in the newest batch of Randians.

          • Lol. Paul Ryan has made an apperance on Popville, awesome!

    • Wait. You think earning this living wage which equates to $26,000 a year — and actually a lot less because they will be given less than 35 hrs/wk and won’t recieve benefits — will cause people to think “hey I got a job at walmart as a greeter, Im set for life” and cause people not to think “this kind of sucks, what do I need to do to move up in life”? Really??? Also, please keep in mind that not everyone can “move up in life.” Some don’t have the skills/abilities to do so, and people are needed to work these jobs.

  • I’m not a fan of Walmart but if a “living wage” was a requirement to do business here, that should have been made known up front. This last minute bait and switch by our council members is embarrassing.

  • will the workers actually work for their money? we’ve all been in those check out lines where the checker isn’t friendly or courteous and sometimes just flat out rude. At $12/ (starting) they better be some happy little worker bees.

  • Who needs Walmart when I can shop tax-free on Amazon on my two thousand dollar MacBook Pro and get free 2-day shipping with my Prime membership. No lines, no poor customer service, no whining kids, no money wasted on gas money, no time spent in traffic, etc. I love democracy.

  • Good riddance Walmart, arrivederchi, sayonara, auf viedersehen, adios, bye bye.

  • I support the idea of a living wage, but I don’t know how or why the council chose $12.50/hour – that’s $2/hour higher than anywhere else in the country.

  • I seem to recall this gang being overwhelmingly supportive of subsidies for the new hotel in Adams-Morgan. Why not subsidize cut Wall-Mart a break by letting them pay starvation wages?

    Once we start lining corporate pockets, it really doesn’t make any difference how we do it — tax breaks or wage laws. It’s all the same thing.

    • you’ve not thought this through.

      • Indeed I have. In both cases, multinational corporations are seeking monetary favors from the district. We either have a policy of bribing wealthy corporations to deign to serve our market, or we don’t. And, if we do, why the outrage over Wall-Mart? It’s pretty much a “we know what you are, we’re just negotiating price” sort of thing. Let;s just talk them down a little bit and call it “economic development.”

        • you’re comparing disparate issues.

          tax breaks and wage laws are very different. unless you’re the boss, that is.

          • Willingness to impose economic costs on the non-shareholding class to benefit the campaign-contributing/capital gains-realizing class are all of a piece. Wall-Mart is doing nothing that Marriott (?) didn’t do.

  • If you have not watched the recent Frontline on PBS – please do.
    Bill Moyers interviewed two Milwaukee families over the course of two decades. Their stories illustrate the struggle that the working poor face in our country.
    I find is shameful that an honest days work cannot sustain an adult and a child anymore. Yes working 40 hours at Wal-Mart won’t allow you to live in Patomac or Georgetown but is should allow you to put a basic roof over your head and food in your belly and access to affordable healthcare.
    What is interesting is that Costco doesn’t need to be told to do this – they do it as a manner of corporate policy. They have a business model that returns amazing profits to shareholders while not stiffing consumers with crap products or employees with poverty wages.

    Wal-Mart is one of the worst things that has happened to modern society.

    If you support a living wage – please let your councilperson know – they need to hear from those that support it so they can stand up to these bullies from Arkansas!

  • Regardless of ones feeling on Wal-Mart, from a practical standpoint this bill seems dumb.

    It applies only to DC and only to specific retailers. The net effect is fewer Wal-Marts or such retailers. The big box stores will just go to the suburbs (along with the tax revenues and jobs).

    The low wage DC workers this is intending to help won’t “living wages.” Instead they have longer commutes to the suburbs for typical retail wages. Without the tax revenues, DC will have less money for social programs.

    I’m not a libertarian and don’t love Wal-Mart. But, you need to just be realistic.

    This is a case of perfect being the enemy of the good. Wal-Mart will provide jobs, taxs, and help to end the “retail leakage.”

    These type of “systemic policies” need to come from a Federal or at least a coordinated regional level. Municipal government’s simply lack the scope to pull these things off.

    • Why are you sure “The big box stores will just go to the suburbs”? There is a market here that is different than the market for those located in the suburbs (even including in that latter market those who will occasionally drive from the city to shop). There are many factors that will go into a store deciding whether it is in their business interest to open in a particular location. It is not obvious that that $4-over-minimum-wage tips any balances. Consider, for example, retailors still build in urban locations despite the much higher land costs, etc.

      • Not all will. But all things being equal, there will be less big box stores than otherwise.

        Plus, but most of these WalMarts are opening auto-centric locations on the fringe of the city. It’s not much further to PG county or VA.

        Every year (for several years running) half the council is out at annual shopping convention in Vegas to highlight how under-retailed we are. So it’s not like big box stores have been fighting over themselves to get in to DC.

  • Rant: That church by 16th/Park where all the drunkards hang around. Once when I was jogging after work, one of those jackasses tried to grab me (Monday evening around 6:30). The next morning, another guy tried to block me from walking up the street by lunging at me. He was taken aback when I yelled at him. Does that church provide any services, or do people just squat there and the adjoining park to drink or sleep off their drink.

  • This is blatant economic protectionism. This is not about improving wages for low-wage workers in DC.

    Wal-Mart is successful because it provides goods (the items it sells) and services (having all the items it sells in one store) at a low price. Typically its price-quality mix is better than its competitors, meaning that more consumers buy from Wal-Mart and its competitors – be they national chains, regional chains, local chains, or mom and pops – often have a tough time competing. The reason Wal-Mart can do this is because it has a cost advantage over its competitors due to economies of scale (Wal-Mart buys items at lower price) and a more efficient distribution system (Wal-Mart is better at getting goods in the store than its competitors).

    What does this bill do? It raises Wal-Mart’s costs relative to Wal-Mart’s competitors’ costs – the wage floor at Wal-Mart is higher than the wage floor at other competing stores. Wal-Mart’s cost advantage is reduced and because in competitive markets price is a function of cost, Wal-Mart’s prices in DC will increase. Not only will Wal-Mart consumers have to pay more to shop at Wal-Mart, but other stores will have an easier time competing with Wal-Mart because Wal-Mart’s prices will be higher. The only workers that will benefit are the ones that actually work at Wal-Mart, which will represent an incredibly small proportion of low-wage workers in DC.

    This is the worst kind of legislation – it is purported to help the “little guy” – meaning low wage workers – when what it really does is protect companies in DC that don’t want to compete with Wal-Mart. There are plenty of ways to help low wage workers without distorting competition.

    • Very true. Unfortunately no one wants to discuss economics. It is sad to see so many uninformed comments.

  • While I strongly agree with the concept of a living wage and that WalMart certainly makes plenty of money to be able to pay a living wage it is my opinion that Walmart is getting the shaft here. If the opinion in the WP today (admittedly writtn by a WalMArt GM) is true WalMart negotiated in good faith their entry into the DC market with political leaders and residents. If a living wage was not discussed during those negotiations WalMArt is getting screwed and as a business has every right to alter their plans to build the 3 additional stores. The Mayor would be wise to veto this bill and keep the progress in SE moving forward.

  • Hey PoP,

    What’s the record for most comments to a post?

  • Screw this legislation. Sounds like some unions and “other” retailers in this area don’t want a new competitor coming in and blowing them out of the water with cheaper goods. I worked in retail at Target for years. It sucks, the pay is awful, and there were no benefits but I did it to help pay for school to get a better job. If you want good pay, benefits, and vacation go get a job in a different industry. It’s a no brainer. Retail is not going to provide you with a fantastic quality of life in this country which most people realize, but I guess crazy people can’t come to terms with reality.

    • Or…we could, as a society, decide we believe people should be paid a living wage for work. You don’t have to be a union or other (“other”?) retailer to care about how we structure our society or the income inequality in this country that has been rapidly increasing over the last few decades.

      • Or…we could realize that what this is really about is that angry people just hate the idea of Walmart competing with them and taking their customers away with cheaper goods and services to choose from instead of the same overpriced goods from say: Safeway, Giant, Harris Teeters, Target, etc…

        This town doesn’t have real competition. The prices here are ridiculous and could easily be brought down with adding Walmart to the mix. A crap job is always going to be a crap job. It’s doubtful our society will ever value unskilled jobs for much money, ever. “If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense”.

      • Fair enough. But, this bill applies only to the small geographic area of DC, not all of society. Its intended targets can easily get around this by just locating a couple miles away.

    • Actually, I think the answer to this is to include Target and all its ilk in this legislation. That would be in my perfect world; obviously, in the real world, it may not be politically feasible about this. But this is the frustrating problem that I think gets in the way of more people banding together and demanding more from our community’s employers. The gut response seems to be “My pay–or the pay at Place X–is crap, so why should it be otherwise at other places?”, ie a race-to-the-bottom philosophy, as opposed to asking why we aren’t fighting to lift every working to a livable wage.

  • Walmart seems to be doing just fine in Canada and Europe where they pay well over our proposed wage. Shame on the council if they bow down to Wal-Mart.

  • But the point is, not everyone can do those types of things well and quickly and to the exacting standards of the jobs that require it. Sure, everybody can clean their bathroom toilet at home every couple of weeks, or whatever. That doesn’t mean everyone is good (both in terms of their speed and in terms of handling the job’s physical rigor) at doing it efficiently and effectively in like 50 hotel rooms a day, every single day. I’m not saying some skills don’t take longer to learn and to refine than others, just that it’s a myth that low-paying jobs require no skills at all. Most every job has its skill sets, and I think anyone who’s willing to put in an honest day’s work should be respected for the skill they bring to that job–even if it’s a humble job–and compensated above poverty level for it.

    • Erg, meant this as a reply to one of the comments above. Oops. Clearly I am not the most skilled blog-commenter ever…

      • Generally, I agree with what you are saying. “Low-paying” (or “unskilled”) jobs have some skill to learn, albeit most likely learned on the job after someone starts. But, people who work these jobs will have to pick up the skill and learn it fairly quickly to do the work required. It would be nice if all humble job’s were respected, regardless the skill, but that is not reality. If an employer can find hundreds or thousands of applicants to fill the same position with the same talent at the cost of very little training, they are never going to offer much for the job. There will always be all of those other people to fill the position. You are more likely to earn better pay for more talent/skills and hard to fill jobs.
        To me this has more to do with the legislation and politics as you say. If the council wants to raise the minimum wage to $12.50/hr for Walmart employees then why don’t they have the brass to do it city-wide for all minimum wage jobs?? Why not just make it a city-wide regulation for every company?

  • Just to add another item to the debate–too often, there seem to be two prevailing misconceptions that get in the way of retail living-wage campaigns. The first is that retail employees don’t really need better salaries and benefits, because they’re likely to be high schoolers or other young people who are simply looking for some extra cash or using retail as a temporary stepping stone while attending college and working their way up to a better, economically-sustainable career. In fact, the way the economy and the job market are now, lots of retail employees are relying on that work for their livelihood and even attempting to support dependents; furthermore, as others have noted, the widespread use of unpredictable just-in-time scheduling makes it very difficult for a retail employee to keep a consistent class schedule, for those who are indeed trying to work their way through college. And there is nothing inherent about retail that it COULDN’T be a career–maybe not a get-rich career–but at least a stable way of earning a modest, livable income for those who aren’t able for whatever reason to invest the time or money in college, grad school, etc. Why not? The second misconception is that retailers can’t possibly be profitable and successful if they pay more. Untrue. Costco is probably the most oft-cited model for a different approach to retailing, but there are other examples of major retailers that invest more (both in wages and in employee professional development)–and in fact this pays off in better employee retention (ie, reduced turnover costs), better employee morale, and better employee productivity and customer service. This article in the Harvard Business Review (not exactly a bleeding-heart liberal publication) talks about some of the retailers that are doing just that, and also enumerates some of the myriad operational decision points that confront even an “unskilled” retail employee like a floor associate or a stocker: Generally speaking, better-treated employees are going to be more effective and more motivated in making judgment calls that could affect store profitability, compared to an employee who’s underpaid, jerked around by management, and is thrown onto the floor with little experience and the bare minimum of training. (For those interested in the issue, the Retail Action Project, which linked to the HBR article, is an advocacy organization that works on campaigns to improve wages and other working conditions in the retail industry.)

    • A couple things here:

      *When I worked at Target,( mind you this was during and after college ) my hours were completely unpredictable every single week, but I was still able to hold down a second job during the day.

      *Retailers will always be profitable, no matter what they pay their employees. Otherwise they will be out of business or not investing in your economy

      *My friend gave up his high school teaching job to tend bar. Not only does he have regular hours every week to be with his two kids at home, he makes more money off of tips (infrequent) than he ever did teaching kids. It’s actually double what he used to make.

      *Yes, happy workers are happier people. So work where you are most happy.

  • How shitty is the timing of this bill? You couldn”,t wait until all the stores were built and open?

    • AWESOME NEWS. The first chink in Wal-Mart’s armor.

      DC has plenty of shopping options and really doesn’t need Wal-Mart. WM has maxed out profitability in the suburbs and the only place it can expand is into urban centers, where it really doesn’t have much political clout. Wal-Mart definitely need DC – and other urban cities – more than those cities need Wal-Mart.

  • I absolutely love this. I hope they cancel all 6 stores and walk away whistling, even though it wouldn’t be great for my interests long term. Jesus Christ, DC.

  • Walmart is on the largest, most profitable corporations in the world. They can afford it. The little mom and pop tienda on the corner – not so much.

  • Similar type of legislation shows up in the third world and it does wonders for them. These types of punitive policies simply do not work. I realize the spirit of what people are trying to do here. They think this bill “protects workers.” Sadly it will not.

    But let’s punish Walmart for being Walmart. Really? Hey I don’t like Walmart and won’t go there but I don’t think the council should act as crusader against Walmart, when they’re already coming to town.

  • Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all folks you actually recognise what you’re speaking about! Bookmarked. Please also consult with my website =). We may have a hyperlink alternate arrangement among us

  • A few things I haven’t heard mentioned much, or at all:

    The living wage bill says employers are allowed to count money they spend on a worker’s benefits from the established wage (e.g., health insurance premiums, paid leave, etc.), so $12.50 isn’t necessarily $12.50.

    In 2011, U.C. Berkeley researchers calculated that if every Walmart in the country paid $12/hour and passed on all of the additional amount to consumers (which would have ZERO effect on Walmart’s profit margin) prices would increase by a paltry 1.1 percent. That comes out to $0.46 per trip for the average Walmart customer.

    Study after study has shown that Walmart – the world’s largest retailer (with something like four times the revenue of Carrefour, which is number two) – has a negative impact on communities, depressing area wages and labor benefits, pushing out more retail jobs than it creates, and resulting in more retail vacancies. The smaller Walmarts being built now aren’t any better, and in fact may be worse. In other words, the value Walmart brings to an area is less than the value of the businesses it displaces.

    Walmart has stated publicly, more than once, it would pay workers a minimum of $13/hour. Now it is fighting for a principle – something only a company as rich as Walmart could do.

    Sure it would be great to see the minimum wage at $12.50. But valid reasons exist for applying this only to large retailers. Here are some major ones:

    — With large retailers – not just Walmart – only 43% of their revenues stay in the community. For locally owned businesses, it’s 68%.

    — Smaller businesses aren’t as likely to pull shrewdies by doing things like, say, paying rent to themselves and then deducting the rent to reduce their taxes (something Walmart is famous for).

    — They don’t build big new buildings (contributing to sprawl), which may then be abandoned (contributing to blight) if income falls short of projections.

    — If a small business fails to pay its taxes, the city/state is unlikely to suffer as a result. If a large business fails to pay its taxes, consequences could be disastrous. (For more about Walmart’s tax avoidance policies, check Walmart Watch.)

    — Small businesses don’t have the ability to manipulate prices; large ones do. They can sell goods at artificially low prices – and for very long periods of time if need be – while they drive out the competition. This also impacts manufacturing, devaluing goods and impacting the quantities available.

    — If small businesses underpay their employees, taxpayers can absorb the consequences. According to Congressman G. Miller (2004), each Walmart store, averaging 200 employees, costs taxpayers $420,750 in public social services used by their employees.

    — Large retailers disproportionately displace better compensated workers, contributing to the decline of the middle class and thus driving down tax revenues.

    — Small businesses have a much narrower safety margin. If any given Walmart has a few consecutive bad quarters, the parent company won’t go belly up. A small business just might.

    — The actual human beings in charge of large retailers (like other corporations) are well shielded from the negative consequences of their actions. They are legally obligated to increase profit, regardless of the consequences. They cannot act on conscience alone. The bigger the business, the thicker the shield. On the other hand, in the mind of the public, small retail operators are inextricably connected to their stores. They have every incentive to act ethically.

    If anyone doubts that smaller businesses are healthier for a community, studies back that up too. They’re more innovative and more productive, and they serve as better engines for economic development. They raise GDP and reduce unemployment.

    In general, larger, wealthier businesses – like wealthier people – SHOULD carry a heavier burden than less affluent ones because they derive more benefit from public resources such as roads and public transit, police and fire departments, justice and education systems (all disproportionately funded by wage earners: their customers).

    Let’s not forget that Walmart is inherently amoral, a faceless immortal that is untouched by mere human concerns – unless those concerns translate into profit. Its only obligation is to its stockholders (51% of them Walton family members), not to the community, not to the government, not to the planet.

    The old tycoons understood that without regulation, capitalism would be unsustainable. Ultimately, corporations NEED laws like the living wage bill, just as children need rules. Otherwise, their behavior is governed entirely by their own selfish drives. Allowed to do anything it liked, Walmart – which is massive, and growing every day – would eventually end up controlling virtually all the world’s wealth. Walmart might still exist – the monstrous child that ate the world – but capitalism wouldn’t.

    PS By the way, at least one group of researchers says the arrival of Walmart has a greater negative impact on ethnic businesses. (Loyola University, 2009)

Comments are closed.