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Wal-Mart Turns Up the Heat

Gray Under Pressure to Veto Bill

James Wright | 7/10/2013, noon
Wal-Mart had planned to build six stores in the District. Courtesy Photo

Barbara Lang, president and chief executive officer of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, agrees with Restivo.

"Wal-Mart has been a member of the D.C. Chamber for almost six years," Lang said. "I hope the mayor vetoes the bill as it is now. You cannot pit one business against the other," referring to Safeway and Giant, companies that have union representation.

Others disagree.

Joslyn Williams, the president of the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, said that the "Large Retailer Accountability Act" is a good bill that would translate into a great law.

"The AFL-CIO supports this very much," Williams said. "The bill will help create a Washington working middle class."

There’s been talk that if the bill passes, the Walmart at Skyland Town Center might be in jeopardy.

Gray said that he’s heard rumblings but there’s been no definitive word from the multi-billion corporation regarding Skyland Town Center, until Tuesday.

"No one from Wal-Mart has said anything like that to me," the mayor said.

Williams said the speculation is baseless.

"Wal-Mart leaving D.C. is an empty threat," he said. "Their strategy is to be in the cities. They are already in the rural and suburban areas of the country and now they are focusing on building in the urban areas."

New York City and Chicago are dealing with the exact same issues that the District currently faces regarding wages and benefits, he said.

The union president isn’t worried about Wal-Mart pulling out.

"The cities are where the money is," he said.

But on Tuesday, Alex Barron, regional general manager for Wal-Mart, threw down the gauntlet.

“What’s more, passage of the [Large Retailer Accountability Act] will also jeopardize the three stores under construction as we will thoroughly review the financial and legal implications of the bill on those projects,” Barron recently wrote in an online opinion piece for The Washington Post.