Walmart is stepping up its pressure on D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray to veto legislation that would force the company to pay higher wages if it opens six stores in the city.
Three Walmart stores are under construction in the District while three others are still in the planning stages. Walmart suggests all six could be canceled if the mayor doesn't veto the Council-passed bill requiring employee wages of $12.50 per hour for big box retailers -- $4 more than minimum wage.
Sources told News4 last week Gray will veto the measure once it reaches his desk, saying areas of the city desperately need jobs and other retailers may balk at building in D.C.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who supports the higher Walmart wage, said the bill won't even administratively reach the mayor for several days, and Gray will have 10 days after that to issue the veto.
“The process will move a little bit slower because we are in summer recess and there’s a protracted process that goes on behind the scenes,” Mendelson said.
Walmart also is supporting a publicity campaign, handing out flyers and a website to contact the mayor.
“I've encouraged the mayor that a veto is the best way to go,” Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander said. “We have too much at stake, especially in the District I represent. It could just mean that the development plans are destroyed.”
Organized labor and others are lobbying against a veto, but sources opposing Walmart say they don't have the votes to override a Gray veto.
The D.C. battle is similar to a 2006 battle in Chicago. The City Council there overwhelmingly passed a big box wage of $10 per hour. Former Mayor Richard Daley vetoed it, and the council failed to override the veto.
Walmart has since built nine stores in that city.