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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Will Wal-Mart Actually Start Paying a Living Wage?

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 11:35 AM

Haha, no! Of course not, you ignorant rube! I mean, there was an option for Wal-Mart to start paying its Washington, DC employees reasonably—and if that DC plan had passed, it likely would've encouraged other parts of the country make their Wal-Marts start paying those employees reasonably, too. But it isn't going to happen. Because it wasn't ever going to happen. Because Wal-Mart threw a hissy fit at the idea of pulling their own weight, as corporations are wont to do. Take it away, Washington Post!

District Mayor Vincent C. Gray vetoed legislation Thursday that would force the city’s largest retailers to pay a super-minimum wage to their workers, ending two months of uncertainty over the controversial bill’s fate and setting up a decisive override vote at the D.C. Council as early as Tuesday.

The debate over the bill, the Large Retailer Accountability Act, has polarized local leaders while garnering national attention and putting focus on the low wages many retail chains pay their workers. (Via.)

The bill was a pretty good one! Sensible, even! It only applied to businesses that can afford to pay their workers more, it gave leeway for unions to negotiate lower wages, and it gave everybody plenty of time to get used to the mind-blowing idea of employees earning a living wage.

The bill would require retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and operating District stores of at least 75,000 square feet to pay their employees a “living wage”—no less than $12.50 an hour in combined wages and benefits. The proposal includes an exception for employers who collectively bargain with their employees, and existing employers have four years to come into compliance under the law.

The city’s existing minimum wage is $8.25 an hour. The bill would raise the annual earnings of a full-time employee making the lowest legally permissible wage from about $17,000 to $26,000. (Via.)

With Wal-Mart threatening that if the bill passed they wouldn't open any of their six planned stores for the DC area, Gray got to vetoin'. That's a short-sighted, moderately insane decision, but hardly a surprising one, given that policy makers seem happy to bend over backwards for Wal-Mart—even when the political and practical benefits of doing so are limited to short-term growth of low-paying jobs. (Once the things are built, it's up to taxpayers to subsidize the business, with (PDF) "public benefit programs [making] up the difference between Wal-Mart's low wages and the costs of subsistence.")

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