Housing Complex

At Rally to Sway Mayor on Living Wage, Gray Won’t Be in Attendance

walmart cartAs we continue to wait for the D.C. Council to send its living wage bill to Mayor Vince Gray for his signature or veto, supporters of the bill are stepping up their efforts with a rally tonight aimed at showing the mayor the degree of public support for the legislation.

"This platform allows the Mayor, who was invited to attend the event, to hear from constituents, especially those in Ward 7, where Walmart has made threats to pull out of if the Mayor does not veto the bill," states a press release from the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which is organizing the rally. The release closes, "Can you hear us now, Mr. Mayor!?"

And the answer, it appears, is no. According to mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro, Gray has another commitment tonight and is unlikely to attend the rally. His public schedule makes no mention of the rally or any other event this evening.

UFCW Local 400 spokeswoman Karlyn Williams says Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange (who introduced the bill and shepherded it through committee, respectively) will be attending—"they're kind of like MCing it"—and the rest of the councilmembers were invited but have not responded.

The Large Retailer Accountability Act of 2013 would require large retailers like Walmart to pay a living wage of $12.50 an hour, minus benefits. There's an opt-out clause for unionized organizations, leading Walmart to charge that union supporters of the bill like UFCW get special treatment.

Walmart spokesman Steve Restivo pre-empted the rally this morning with an email beginning, "At tonight’s labor rally in support of the Large Retailer Accountability Act, you’ll likely hear the usual urban myths about Walmart," and continuing with a defense of Walmart's economic record.

UFCW, for its part, tried to claim the mantle of the civil rights movement on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Its email opens with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: "A living wage should be the right of all Americans."

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Ben

    Slapfighting with Wal-Mart makes for great TV, but it just doesn't actually do much for the majority of people living in DC.

    Why not just raise the minimum wage for everyone, instead of targeting Wal-Mart?

  • Typical DC BS

    Ha. Guess Gray gave them the hand to the face. Too bad lefty economic gobbledygook doesn't make sense to the mayor either.

  • Corky

    If these kooks protested at any store that pays minimium wage other than Walmart every once in a while, they might have a little more credibility. But just a little more. Walmart is doing the same thing every other store is doing.

  • Cat on K Street

    I don't get a strong sense that this has as much support among residents. Everyone else beside the louder political folks seems to be to worry they will lose a job or a retail store that they have been hoping for in Walmart or someone other retailer leaving.

    There was supposedly a report that Wegmans made the same threat as Walmart.

  • Hillman

    It's a bit hypocritical for anyone that doesn't support a city-wide $12.50 an hour bill to be demanding that one be passed that only impacts Walmart.

    I'm not a big Walmart fan, but this isn't how a grown-up city conducts business.

    You don't decide you don't like one business, and then you pass one set of rules for them, while exempting all of their competitors.

    Funny too how no matter how big the store or how low their wages are as long as they are a union shop they are exempt.

    Also worth noting that a lot of the groups fighting for this bill often use unpaid intern labor. A lot of it. For what we all know isn't intern-level work.

    The hypocrisy here is pretty striking.