Wal-Mart is pulling out of two, possibly three, D.C. sites where it planned to build stores, citing the D.C. Council's impending adoption of a bill mandating large retailers pay a "living wage" to employees. The bill, which passed on its first vote last month, will be put to a final tally Wednesday during the Council's final meeting of the current legislative session.This is a marvelous lesson in the law of unintended consequences, a law to which liberals for some reason think they're immune. Now rather than have 900 people with jobs, some of which are minimum wage, they'll have 900 people with no job living off the dole. Now, rather than have three more low cost food stores in the District, where people often complain of "food deserts," there'll still be only those food stores that are already there.
Representatives from Wal-Mart say the company will no longer build its planned stores at Skyland Town Center and Capitol Gateway, retail sites in Ward 7. "They're not bluffing me," Councilmember Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) says, having just left a meeting with the world's largest retailer. "We worked for many years to get this commitment. I really didn't think it would get to this point."
The Large Retailer Accountability Act requires companies that take in at least $1 billion in revenue annually to pay their employees at least $12.50 an hour, well above the District's minimum wage of $8.25. The bill also only applies to stores that are at least 75,000 square feet, thus exempting companies like Apple and Starbucks.
In addition to the two Ward 7 stores, Alexander's chief of staff, Ed Fisher, also says Wal-Mart's move imperils a store planned for New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road NE. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), who represents that area, was one of eight "yes" votes on the bill's first reading.
"That was without knowing Wal-Mart was going to pull out," says Jeannette Mobley, McDuffie's chief of staff. Mobley says her boss is "going to give this some thought" before tomorrow's Council session.
Fisher says each planned Wal-mart was going to have at least 300 full- and part-time employees, as well as enhance food shopping options in Ward 7, where there are only four full-service supermarkets. "We're going to have fewer options for groceries and commercial retail," Fisher says. "At least 900 people won't have an opportunity whether it's full-time or part-time. Whether it's a student in high school or a senior or a job someone can use as a stepping stone."
Good move, fellas. If there were a Barney Fife award for people whose confidence in their own cleverness is as unshakeable as it is unwarranted you all would surely qualify.