D.C. minimum wage bill: Vincent Gray still undecided on signing or veto

Walmart says it'll cancel plans for three D.C. stores if the living wage bill is signed. Photo: Associated Press

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray says he has spent the last three weeks listening to arguments for and against the Large Retailer Accountability Act, but he still has not decided whether or not to sign it.

In fact, he still has not received a copy of the bill from the D.C. Council.

In an appearance on NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt on NewsChannel 8 on Wednesday, Gray said that he has yet to make up his mind on whether to sign or veto the bill, which was passed July 10 by an 8-5 vote. The bill would force most large retailers that occupy 75,000 square feet or more to pay a minimum wage of $12.50 per hour.

DOCUMENT: Read the Large Retailer Accountability Act

That minimum wage is significantly higher than the District's minimum wage of $8.25. Gray emphasized Wednesday that the bill is not meant to solely pick on Walmart, which has threatened to cancel plans for three stores if he signs the legislation.

"This isn't just a Walmart bill," Gray said. "Lots of large retailers are affected by it. For people to tag it as a Walmart bill doesn't recognize the scope of this legislation."

Some big box retailers would be exempt from implementing the $12.50 minimum wage, including those who would be included in a grandfather clause and stores with unionized workforces.

Gray mentioned such companies as Costco, Wegmans, Harris Teeter and Macy's as stores that would be impacted by the bill if he were to sign it into law. Once the mayor receives a copy of the LRAA, he'll have 10 days to either sign it, veto it or send it back to the council unsigned.

In the meantime, the mayor insists that he has not yet made up his mind and continues to evaluate all sides and arguments for and against passage.

"It'd be disingenuous if I had the decision in my head," Gray said. "I'm really listening to hear if there are different ideas on why this is or isn't a good idea."

Gray told DePuyt that it's unusual that it would take this long for D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson to transmit to him an approved bill. He believes that the 10-day timeline has something to do with that decision.

"Let's say I send it back or veto it," Gray said. "I suspect he's concerned about the timetable and making sure his members are available."

A third way to tackle the issue would be to raise the minimum wage District-wide, though Gray says that would have to come through separate legislation.

"We've had councilmembers who have raised that possibility, as has the president for the federal minimum wage."

Walmart has been on a public relations blitz against the Large Retailer Accountability Act both before and after its passage. Just before it was voted on, the company said it would cancel plans to build three of its six planned stores for the District if the bill were passed and signed.

Those three stores in limbo would be located at Skyland Town Center, Capitol Gateway in Northeast D.C. and on New York Avenue near Bladensburg Road. Each of those stores would create 300 permanent jobs.