Walmart pulls plug on three stores after D.C. Council OKs wage bill

New York -- Walmart said it was walking away from its plans to build three stores in Washington, D.C., after the city council passed a bill on late Wednesday setting a higher minimum wage for large retailers.

”This was a difficult decision for us — and unfortunate news for most D.C. residents — but the Council has forced our hand,”  said Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo in a statement released after vote, which passed 8 to 5.

The Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) of 2013 requires large retailers with stores over 75,000 sq. ft. and parent companies grossing at least $1 billion per year to pay a “living wage” starting salary of $12.50 an hour. (The District has a minimum wage of $8.25.) Under the terms of the bill, large retailers have four years to comply with the requirements.

The bill could still be blocked if D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray vetoes it or if Congress uses its local control to keep the legislation from taking effect.

Wal-Mart had warned in an op-ed article in the Washington Post on Tuesday that it would pull the plug on the three stores planned for the District (at Skyland, Capitol Gateway, and New York Avenue if the council passed the bill.) It also warned that it would reevaluate its plans for three other stores in the District.

“The question here is a living wage; it’s not whether Wal-Mart comes or stays,” said council member Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large), a lead backer of the legislation, in a report by The Washington Post. “We’re at a point where we don’t need retailers. Retailers need us.”