Wal-Mart bill to reach Mayor Vincent Gray by Friday

Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- The controversial Large Retailer Accountability Act, the bill that would force retailers like Wal-Mart to pay its employees significantly more than Washington's minimum wage, will finally reach D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray by Friday.

And there was a boisterous crowd on Tuesday night at Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church, where people wondered where Mayor Vincent C. Gray will ultimately stand when it comes to the bill.

Rally attenders don't want the mayor to veto the bill, since it would mean that big retailers like Wal-Mart would have to pay employees $12.50 an hour instead of D.C.’s minimum wage of $8.25.

"People should get a living wage so they can lift themselves out of poverty," said District resident Ginia Avery.

Bill supporter and D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson explained why he has taken a month and a half to send the mayor the bill.

"The bill would have been sent to him sooner if he'd say he was going to sign it, so it's a function of having this period of time for people to speak out," he explained.

But Wal-Mart says that if Gray does sign the bill, it will go ahead and cancel plans for at least three of its six planned DC stores. Those canceled stores would be located at Skyland Town Center, Capitol Gateway and on New York Avenue.

But some in the area don’t want the District to be so tough on the retailer, actually preferring a compromise and pointing out a possible agreement where employees could get paid a bit more than minimum wage.

The bottom line seems to be that $8.25 an hour just isn't enough:

"I don't think people are asking for any handouts, but they definitely need to compensate for the price of living around here," said D.C. resident Thomas Ray.

A secretary for D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson confirmed Tuesday that the bill, which passed by a vote of 8-5 on July 10, will be on Mayor Gray's desk by Friday.

Once Gray gets the bill, he has 10 business days to decide whether to sign, veto or send the bill back to the Council.