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WASHINGTON, DC — Last week, I vetoed the Large Retailer Accountability Act of 2013, which the D.C. Council passed earlier this summer. Although the supporters of this bill had good intentions, it simply was not an effective vehicle for reaching a goal that we all share — to help the largest number of District residents possible find good jobs with good wages.
Many people who had urged me to sign this bill seemed to rely on a number of fundamental misunderstandings about what the LRAA actually contained, and what it would actually mean for District residents if it were to become law.
Let me clear up some of the misconceptions.
For starters, the LRAA was not a true living-wage bill, because it would raise the minimum wage only for a very small fraction of our city’s workers. It would affect only a handful of retailers whose stores are supermarket-sized or larger and whose workforces are not unionized – at best, a very small portion of the District’s retailers.
Why, I ask supporters of this bill, do workers at large, non-unionized retailers deserve higher wages – but workers at unionized stores or smaller retailers do not?
This bill was also a job-killer, because nearly every large retailer now considering opening a store in the District has already indicated they will not come here or expand here if this bill were to become law. Our Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Victor Hoskins, and his staff analyzed the job losses from the bill due to retailers failing to expand in the District, and they estimated it would cost our city 4,000 jobs in the first few years alone.
In a time when the federal budget and the federal workforce are being cut, we simply can’t afford to forfeit that many jobs.
Additionally, this bill would have affected far more retailers than many supporters think. Even though the vast majority of the publicity surrounding the bill has focused on Walmart, the retailers who have said they would not open stores in the District or would seriously reconsider expanding here if the bill became law include Costco, Target, Home Depot, Wegmans, Lowe’s, Walgreens, Harris Teeter, AutoZone and Macy’s.
The bill had other significant flaws. Perhaps most damaging would be the LRAA’s effects on major development projects in underserved parts of our city that need jobs and amenities the most desperately. If it were to become law, the LRAA would kill economic development in these communities for a generation or longer. For example, my administration has done painstaking work to revive the long-stalled redevelopment of the Skyland shopping center in Ward 7. But that project would, without question, be suffocated in its cradle if the LRAA became law – with no plausible alternative plans to jump-start it.
In my veto letter to the Council, I said a much better way to achieve the goals of the LRAA without risking its negative consequences would be to pass a reasonable increase in the District’s minimum wage for all workers.
I look forward to working with the Council to make sure that happens.
Photo Credit : NLC