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EDITORIAL: The Wal-Mart Quandary

7/17/2013, 3 p.m.
Wal-Mart had planned to build six stores in the District. Courtesy Photo

The stand-off between Wal-Mart and city officials has made national headlines, and the decision by the D.C. Council to force the behemoth to pay a living wage to each employee jeopardizes Wal-Mart’s presence here.

Mayor Vincent Gray is caught between a rock and the proverbial hard place because he’ll decide whether to veto the bill.

Wal-Mart officials are understandably upset because they feel blind-sided by passage of the bill which requires that large retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more in spaces of 75,000-square-feet or more, pay their employees at least $12.50 an hour.

Wal-Mart had planned to build six stores here, with three in underserved communities and planned to hire about 1,800 people. Alex Barron, regional general manager for Wal-Mart U.S., has been unequivocal of the consequences of Gray not vetoing the legislation: Abandon the New York Avenue, Capitol Gateway and Skyland stores and possibly halt construction on the other three stores.

There are solid arguments on both sides. Wal-Mart is in business to make money but it also bears some responsibility to those it hires. It is expensive to live in the District and employees need a living wage at the very least. Wal-Mart would help redress the food deserts. We hope Gray makes the best decision in the interest of District residents.