It's been a rough year for D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, and this week won't make matters much better.
Gray issued a district-wide veto of the proposed "living wage" bill Thursday, which would have pumped up minimum wage for retail employees. Gray said he vetoed the bill because there's a need for an increased minimum wage for all sectors — not just one. The decision isn't a surprise to many, but it certainly won't help Gray's approval ratings, which have been low since his funding scandal of last year. (Which, it emerged Thursday, reportedly involved Hillary Clinton as well. No! Not Hillary!)
Said Gray in a press release:
I am vetoing this legislation precisely because I believe in providing a living wage to as many District residents as possible—and this bill is not a true living-wage measure... While the intentions of its supporters were good, this bill is simply a woefully inadequate and flawed vehicle for achieving the goal we all share.
Still, the mayor's veto of the bill might not stamp it out entirely. The D.C. Council already passed it on a 8-5 vote, and an override of Gray's decision would require just one more supporter. The Council comes back into session next week, setting the stage for a showdown with Gray. The Chairman has promised an override as early as next Tuesday. Still, some have charged the bill with advocating special interests, with retail workers then earning an entire third more than minimum-wage employees on other sectors — such as those famous fast-food workers.
The bill came in response to nationwide protests against the low bar of minimum wage — which, many say, aren't enough to maintain an acceptable standard of living — and, in particular, the building of six new Walmart stores in the District. Because Walmart is the largest private employer in the world, protesters raged about the low standard of pay that the chain insists on (in spite of being mind-bogglingly wealthy). The new bill, officially titled the Large Retailer Accountability Act, would up the minimum wage for employees of wealthy retailers from $8.25 to a whopping $12.50 an hour.
Walmart blanched at the idea, and threatened to cancel construction on half of its planned buildings in the district in retaliation. Walmart, needless to say, is very pleased that the mayor has shot down the bill.