Walmart Could Cancel Planned Stores Over Living Wage Bill

Walmart is threatening to cancel three planned stores over a living wage bill in Washington, D.C. The megastore chain all but threatened District lawmakers on Tuesday with the ultimatum.

While the city’s minimum wage is currently $8.25 per hour, the bill would require retailers with more than $1 billion in corporate sales and an operating space of over 75,000 square feet to pay their employees at least $12.50 per hour.

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, previously promised to open six stores in the area, which will employ up to 1,800 people. But if the bill passes, the retailer made it clear three of those stores will not happen.

Along with informing lawmakers in person, Alex Barron, a regional general manager for the retailer, also wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post, saying that the living wage bill “would clearly inject unforeseen costs into the equation that will create an uneven playing field and challenge the fiscal health of our planned D.C. stores.”

While it had hinted in the past that it opposed the living wage bill, Walmart’s statements on Tuesday were the first saying the company would withdraw from its planned stores.

Walmart has used similar tactics in the past with stores in Chicago and New York. While Mayor Richard M. Daley vetoed the Chicago bill for a similar “living wage” requirement, New York only raised its minimum wage after it agreed to offer tax subsidies to stores like Walmart that hire workers seasonally.

One of the bill’s backers, Vincent B. Orange, stated that the announcement by Walmart revealed the company’s “true character.” He added, “For them to now stick guns to council members’ heads is unfortunate and regrettable.”

But despite Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s support of the bill, he indicated that he may consider vetoing it. He called Walmart’s move “immensely discouraging.” However, he added, “The cancellation of three planned stores will surely set us back. I strongly urge the Council to consider whether this legislation will actually promote strong economic development in the District and expand job opportunities for District residents.”

It is unclear whether or not the living wage bill in Washington, D.C., will continue with Walmart’s announcement that the legislation could cancel plans for three new stores.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]