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D.C. Council Doesn’t Bow to Walmart’s ‘Blackmail’

Los Angeles County Federation of Labor photo

The District of Columbia City Council today didn’t pay Walmart’s “blackmail” demand and instead told the giant retailer that if it wants to operate within the District, it must pay its workers a living wage.

In an 8–5 vote the council approved a measure that sets a $12.50 an hour wage for workers in “big box” stores like Walmart. The vote came the day after Walmart sent squad of high-level executives from its Arkansas headquarters to try and strong-arm council members to defeat the living wage bill.

The threat was simple and to the point—scrap the living wage bill or we will scrap plans to build to build three stores planned for the District and possibly halt construction on three others that are underway.     

Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO President Jos Williams blasted Walmart's threat as “economic blackmail.”

This is nothing more than a desperate last-ditch attempt to blackmail council members who have supported the Large Retailer Accountability Act. The ‘kinder, gentler’ Walmart that has professed so much interest in good jobs, shopping and foods for our community has returned to the kind of brazen intimidation and steam-roller tactics we’ve seen across the country and, indeed, around the world.

Councilman Vincent B. Orange said Walmart’s announcement revealed its “true character.”

For them to now stick guns to council members’ heads is unfortunate and regrettable.

The fate of the living wage bill now rests with Mayor Vincent Gray, who in a statement indicated he is considering vetoing the bill. The council’s 8–5 vote is not enough to override a possible veto.

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