“D.C. Mayor’s Veto of Wal-Mart Wage Bill is a National Outrage”

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This post first appeared at the Campaign for America’s Future blog, OurFuture.org.

An outdoors sign for Wal-Mart is seen in Duarte, Calif. Tuesday, May 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

An sign for Wal-Mart is seen in Duarte, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Washington, D.C. mayor Vincent Gray has vetoed a bill that would require large, billion-dollar retailers like Wal-Mart to pay their workers a living wage, defined in the bill as at least $12.50 an hour. It is the latest development in a nationwide battle to end the double-barreled exploitation by such firms as Wal-Mart, which build their businesses on the backs of workers receiving poverty wages and on the backs of taxpayers who subsidize their businesses.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author David Cay Johnston, who writes extensively about corporate tax and economic issues, explained in an interview this week that the Wal-Mart wage bill, which passed by a substantial but not veto-proof majority of the City Council, symbolizes the kinds of things that have to be done to address what is fundamentally wrong with today’s economy.

Video Courtesy of Campaign for America's Future
“If Wal-Mart comes into Washington, it will drive down the wages everywhere else, and it will be a job destroyer,” he said, citing a study that shows that a new Wal-Mart on average will cause the loss of 175 jobs as competing neighborhood businesses are driven out and as wage cuts filer through the local community, lowering spending.

But Johnston acknowledged the messaging challenge for progressive activists trying to win over residents in low-income communities, such as some of the neighborhoods in D.C. targeted by Wal-Mart. “It is very difficult for people when they are thinking about feeding their kids next week [to think about] in a year from now I will be worse off,” he said. But, he adds, “that’s where the long-term focus should be, that what Wal-Mart wants to do is make you worse off.”

The news of Mayor Gray’s veto comes on the same day that Bloomberg News details how, on top of pushing down wages, killing jobs and milking governments for tax giveaways where their stores and warehouses are located, the Walton family that owns Wal-Mart are also tax evaders.

“America’s richest family, worth more than $100 billion, has exploited a variety of legal loopholes to avoid the estate tax, according to court records and Internal Revenue Service filings obtained through public-records requests,” Bloomberg reports. One of the results of their tax avoidance is a billion-dollar museum in Bentonville, Ark., that houses the Walton family’s personal art collection.

No city – and no country – should have to accept a corporation paying its experienced workers poverty wages (and increasing demands on government programs by encouraging employees to apply for public assistance to get food, housing and health care), extorting tax giveaways from municipalities where their facilities are located AND gaming the tax code so they contribute far less of a share of their income to the public welfare than the struggling workers they exploit.

One way you can express support for a living wage for Wal-Mart workers is by adding your name to this petition by the United Food and Commercial Workers that calls on Wal-Mart to “commit to [paying] your workers a minimum real wage of $25,000 annually so they can support a family” and to end retailiation against workers who have participated in Wal-Mart wage actions around the country.

Isaiah J. PooleIsaiah J. Poole has been the editor of OurFuture.org since 2007 and also directs the Campaign for America’s Future’s online communications. Previously he had worked for 25 years in mainstream media, most recently at Congressional Quarterly, where he covered congressional leadership and tracked major bills through Congress.
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  • David Lane

    I doubt any court would have upheld such a law. It would cost the city to defend it in court with no real chance of winning. Yes Walmart owners should do the right thing, it shouldn’t take a law to force them to, but all they know is greed.

  • Anonymous

    Look out Walmart, Papa Johns, Burger King, McD’s and the rest of you abusive cheapskates. We will be voting for politicians who will rebuild the Prosperity of the Nation, to replace those jackals who are in it for themselves and take bribes from large corporations.
    Hopefully by the time the new stores are built, the minimum wage will be $12.50 an hour. We are sick of the you Corporate Welfare Queens having taxpayers subsidize your payroll.
    And big oil, you make billions, pay no taxes, get millions in tax credits, gouge the public for the gas. Things are about to change.
    We anticipate a big fight, a lot of your lying propaganda, but you have flushed our democracy down the toilet and we are taking you on.

  • Kyle


  • Liberals4RealFreedom

    Vincent Gray is biggest shame of democracy, Democrats and freedom. Wal-Mart are celebrating with their 51 wine bottles worth $20,000 each right now.

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately so many vote against their own best interest (“What’s the Matter with Kansas?”)

  • Anonymous

    You gotta wonder who’s paying this guy off. Nah, he’s just positioning himself for a job after he’s voted out. It seems political offices are no just a stepping stone to jobs with exorbitant salaries.


    Vincent lacks backbone, Its NOT over till that fat lady sings.

    city council can override Mayor Vincent Gray’s Veto- With just One Vote Please Sign :)


  • Mary Johanna

    The saying goes: “Money rules the world.” I am asking then who rules the money? As long as we the people do not know the answer or take charge in ruling the money they will continue to do what they want. Don’t look to government for help. Over the years good quality and decent people have left government and now we got what we paid for…

  • Merlin


  • Merlin

    Marc, first, lets do something about sizing your Iconic image, you look
    like Boss Hogg in that picture. Secondly, the use of reason never stood
    in the way of a good argument ..right?, simply put, if you make $10,000 a
    year, you barely eat. If you make 11.5 billion in a quarter your doing
    pretty well, Exon can afford to pay 5.2 billion in taxes. and
    additionally if your making $25, $45, or $60,000 you can be fat and
    sassy. So stop bitching and pay enough to eat. Greed is not good I don’t
    care what they told you at the movies.

  • moderator

    Please follow our comment policy when commenting. Personal attacks are not allowed.

    Sean @ Moyers

  • Merlin

    Wow, they actually DO have a comment editor. He’s pretty fair though.

  • Anonymous

    YES You increase everyone except the upper upper echelon’s wages. The CEO making millions a year doesn’t need a raise, but the average workers and middle management certainly do!

  • Marc Neermann

    Even better pick your favorite progressive company eg Apple Inc. (21.13%) and see what their percentage of profit of sales is versus Exxon’s (9.90%) or any other major oil company! Get back to me when you’ve picked your jaw up from the floor to find out that their’s is almost twice that of the oil companies. Now who’s greedy?