D.C. Mayor Gray defends ‘living wage’ veto


Mayor Vincent C. Gray (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

In his weekly radio address Sunday, D.C. Mayor Mayor Vincent C. Gray again explained his decision to veto legislation that would have forced large retailers in the District to pay workers more.

Gray offered a defense of the veto similar to what he told The Post’s Mike DeBonis last week and what he wrote in his letter to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, saying that the bill’s costs outweighed its benefits and warned of the potential for future job losses.

The bill would only benefit “a very small fraction of our city’s workers” while scaring away stores that could bring needed economic development, Gray said. He called the bill “a job killer,” warning that large retailers such as Target, Costco, Home Depot and Harris Teeter would shy away from the District if the city’s minimum wage was increased.

“In a time when the federal budget and the federal workforce are being cut, we simply can’t afford to forfeit that many jobs,” he said.

Gray also repeated his belief that the goal should be “a reasonable increase” to the District’s minimum wage. Last week, Gray told The Post’s Mike DeBonis that he hadn’t discussed a city-wide minimum wage increase with large retailers like Wal-Mart to gauge whether or not they would object.

The “living wage” bill, known as the Large Retailer Accountability Act, was approved by the D.C. Council in July. It would require retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and operating D.C. stores of at least 75,000 square feet to pay their employees no less than $12.50 an hour in combined wages and benefits. The city’s minimum wage is $8.25.

Wal-Mart had warned that the law, if approved, would cause the retail giant to reconsider its plans to open as many as six stores in the District.

You can listen to Gray’s radio address here.

Related: What is a living wage in D.C.?

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.

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