D.C. City Council’s “Living Wage” Vote Today is a Direct Attack on the Unemployed

D.C. Council Backs Union Buddies at Expense of Constituents Seeking Needed Jobs

Washington, D.C. – Calling the vote a giveaway to organized labor that will actually hurt the prospect for job opportunities in the nation’s Capitol, Justin Danhof, Esq., director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project, is criticizing the D.C. City Council for passing a super minimum wage that officially targets Wal-Mart and other non-union “big box” retailers, but is in fact a direct attack on unemployed D.C. area residents.

On Wednesday June 26, the D.C. City Council tentatively approved the “Large Retailer Accountability Act.” It voted late today 8-5 to approve the final bill. The bill requires big box stores such as Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot to pay their employees no less than $12.50 an hour, more than $4.00 over the city’s existing minimum wage of $8.25. The bill, however, is arbitrary in that it exempts all union shops and has a four-year enforcement delay for retailers already operating in the District of Columbia.

Wal-Mart has no existing stores in D.C., but has been working with the city for years to build six stores in mainly depressed regions of the city. Three stores are already under construction.

“Wal-Mart has bent over backwards to accommodate the District’s requirements concerning location, staffing, minority contracting, transportation, non-profit support and many more onerous demands from the city’s leaders just to have the City Council pull the rug out from under them at the 11th hour,” said Danhof. “This is a clear attack on a company that was working to bring jobs and prosperity to communities of need and an unmistakable hand-out to local unions.”

“This may be the first and last time that I agree with the liberal, elite anti-Wal-Mart crowd, but I think the company’s leaders should pull up their stakes and get out of D.C.,” said Danhof. “If the D.C. city council wants to be an anti-capitalist bully, it will get the economy it deserves. Wal-Mart will continue to locate stores in neighboring Maryland and Virginia and the estimated 1,800 jobs it planned to create in D.C. will end up elsewhere.”

Ahead of today’s vote, Wal-Mart regional manager Alex Barron wrote in the Washington Post that if the living wage bill is approved, the company would not pursue three of its proposed D.C. stores and would reconsider opening stores already under construction.

“The Council’s hypocrisy is stunning. It claims to be looking out for workers struggling to make a so-called living wage in the District while making a direct attack on those very workers by limiting the creation of new jobs here. Economics 101 says the more jobs that exist, the greater the competition for good workers, the higher wages will be. By killing new jobs on purpose, the City Council is PUSHING WAGES LOWER even as it increases unemployment,” Danhof said.

Furthermore, Danhof added, “Council members apparently don’t care about the workers at large union stores or small shops that pay their employees less than $12.50 per hour. Having zero Wal-Mart jobs paying $12.50 an hour is not better than almost 2,000 jobs with some paying $8.25 an hour. When the D.C. Council realizes that simple fact of economics – if it ever does – it will likely be too late.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s most recent statistics, Washington, D.C.’s unemployment rate stands at 8.5 percent – almost a full percentage point higher than the national average. The District’s unemployment rate also far outpaces neighboring counties’ in Maryland and Virginia. Furthermore, according to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, the unemployment rate among black D.C. residents was a staggering 17.8 percent in 2012, and for D.C.’s 16-24 year old population the unemployment rate was 12 percent.

“D.C’s unemployment statistics are sobering indeed,” said Danhof. “The City Council is waging a war on the City’s black and youth populations that could disproportionately benefit from Wal-Mart’s expansion into the region. Council members who approved this measure are blocking reliable jobs at one of the nation’s largest and stable employers from hoards of city residents in desperate need of work. Their actions are simply unconscionable.”

“I have another question for the City Council membership,” concluded Danhof. “What is the exact amount of campaign contributions you have collectively received from unions versus from ‘big-box’ retailers? Are you truly putting the interest of your constituents first?”

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. The National Center for Public Policy Research has not received contributions from Wal-Mart nor has it been in touch with Wal-Mart about the subject of this press release or related matters.

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The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.