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Living Wage in DC Big Box Stores

The living wage in DC for employees of big box stores just became $12.50 an hour after the DC Council approved the Large Retailer Accountability Act. Those who support the new living wage in DC believe it protects workers as the cost of living in the city increases, but others think it may cause big box stores like Wal-Mart to back out of plans to open stores in the city.

DC’s minimum wage of $8.25 is already higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. But $12.50 is more than 50% more than the old DC minimum wage.

The new living wage in DC applies to retailers with over 75,000 square feet of retail space and corporate parent sales over $1 billion per year. The bill includes exemptions for stores with unions and those that already exist in the city.  

Before the living wage bill was passed, Wal-Mart had plans for six new stores in DC ranging from 80,000 to 120,000 square feet. The first two locations were slated to open this year. DC Mayor Vincent Gray and others were excited that two Wal-Marts were planned for sites east of the Anacostia River in communities that are underserved by retail with high unemployment rates. One of those stores in Southwest DC was planned as a mixed-use town center in the Skyland neighborhood of Ward 7 near the home of the mayor.

But Wal-Mart vowed to back out if the living wage in DC passed. That ultimatum did not deter the DC Council from approving the bill. The mayor still has veto power before the new living wage in DC goes into effect. Patrick Madden of WAMU 88.5 News thinks the mayor will veto the bill so that DC can attract future retailers like Wegmans, Trader Joe’s, and Lowe’s. But Councilmember Vincent Orange expects Gray to sign the bill, especially if he plans to run for reelection.

We’ll have to wait and see if there is a new and final living wage in DC.

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