Management & Labor

D.C. Council Fails to Override 'Living Wage' Veto

The D.C. Council failed Tuesday to overturn a mayoral veto of a hotly contested measure requiring the city’s largest retailers to pay their workers no less than 50 percent more than the current minimum wage.
September 18, 2013
 

The D.C. Council failed Tuesday to overturn a mayoral veto of a hotly contested measure requiring the city’s largest retailers to pay their workers no less than 50 percent more than the current minimum wage.

The attempt to override Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s veto failed when only seven of 13 members voted to support it; nine votes were needed for the override to succeed. The tally came after nearly an hour of sharp debate and heated outbursts from the audience.

Council member could also lose committee chairmanship for accepting $6,800 from contractors.

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Council members raised few new arguments pro or con but repeated their well-worn talking points with new passion.

“This is really about what kind of economic development strategy we want in this city,” said Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), a supporter of the bill. “Creating low-quality jobs, in my view, is not a good economic-development strategy.”

The bill had become part of a national campaign against the proliferation of low-wage jobs, and it has become entwined locally with Wal-Mart’s plans to open several stores in the city. Wal-Mart, which had threatened to abandon its plan should the bill become law, issued a statement after Gray’s veto last week that it would proceed with plans for at least five stores.

But the larger implications did not sway any of those opposed to the bill. “I don’t vote based on national debates,” said Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3). “I vote based on what is best for the District of Columbia.”

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