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Gray Defends ‘Living Wage’ Veto, Calls Bill a ‘Job Killer’

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D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray made headlines this past week when he vetoed the controversial Large Retailer Accountability Act, but the mayor said he acted in the best interest of the city.

Calling the bill that would require large, non-union retailers to pay employees a minimum of $12.50 an hour a “job killer” and not a “true living-wage bill,” Gray defended his veto during his weekly Sunday morning radio address on All-News 99.1 WNEW. He said the legislation — dubbed the ‘Living Wage’ bill — wouldn’t help the District achieve its big picture goal.

“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,” Gray said.

He said there are many misconceptions about what the bill — which passed the city council by an 8-5 vote earlier this summer — would have meant for the District.

“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,” Gray said.

Gray pointed out that the bill wouldn’t raise the minimum wage for all city residents, but instead for only a “small fraction” of employees at large retailers. He said the bill should raise the minimum wage across the board, instead of just for a select group.

“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,” Gray said.

As an alternative, Gray said he recommended the council pass a bill that would provide a “reasonable increase in the District’s minimum wage for all workers.

Gray also noted the potential precedent the bill would set for other large retailers — not just Walmart — who are interested in doing business in the District.

“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,” Gray said.

The city estimated that if passed, the bill’s ramifications would cost the District about 4,000 jobs in the first few years, Gray said.

Listen to Gray’s full radio address:

Listen to D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray give his weekly radio address at 10:05 a.m. every Sunday, exclusively on All-News 99.1.

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