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D.C. Mayor Vetoes 'Living Wage' Bill Targeting Large Retailers

A worker collects shopping carts at a Wal-Mart parking lot, in Bristol, Pa.
Matt Rourke
A worker collects shopping carts at a Wal-Mart parking lot, in Bristol, Pa.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray has vetoed a controversial "living wage" bill that would have forced large retailers such as Wal-Mart to pay a 50 percent premium on the district's $8.25 per hour minimum wage.

When the bill was approved by the city council in July, Wal-Mart said it would abandon three of the six stores it planned to build in the district, claiming the required minimum $12.50 it would have to pay was too much.

Since then Gray, a Democrat, has been mulling whether to sign the Large Retailer Accountability Act, as the bill is known. On Thursday, he ended weeks of speculation and vetoed it.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, a supporter of the act, said he was "disappointed" by the mayor's decision, which he said was "not good for workers."

A letter sent by Gray to Mendelson said the bill was "not a true living-wage bill, because it would raise the minimum wage only for a small fraction of the District's workforce," according to The Washington Post.

The Post quotes Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo as saying the veto is "good news for D.C. residents," saying Gray chose "jobs, economic development and common sense over special interests."

He said that if the council fails to override the veto, "all stores are back on."

Other major retailers, such as Target and Home Depot, also opposed the bill.

In a statement from the National Retail Federation, spokesman David French thanked Gray "for his leadership on this important issue. With a stroke of his pen, the Mayor brought power back to D.C.'s 'Open for Business' sign."

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.