It’s about time that the people speak truth to power. It’s about time that everyday citizens talk back to the politicians who believe that they should be dictating wage rates.
The Trayvon Martin story is getting all the ink, but the dispute over Walmart in Washington, D.C. is more important. Getting jobs into the inner cities is the real story.
Facing the prospect that Walmart would open six stores in the district, the Washington City Council voted a bill requiring the retailer to pay a minimum wage of $12.50.
Citizens of Washington and former Mayor Anthony Williams have called on the mayor to veto the bill.
One is reminded of the fact that in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg has vetoed a number of such bills, only to have the City Council override his vetoes. Thus, no Walmarts in New York and no Kingsbridge Armory development project.
Reporting on the story the New York Times quotes Washingtonian Fred Reaves on the situation. Hopefully, his remarks signal a growing awareness by those who are being consigned to joblessness by such laws:
“Those big people in government, they don’t understand my situation,” said Fred Reaves, 45, who is unemployed and said he would gladly take a job at the current city minimum, $8.25.
“Eight-something, it’ll motivate you to start going to work,” Mr. Reaves said as he stood around the Skyland Town Center, a patch of barren asphalt and shuttered stores where Walmart planned to build. “You can start paying some bills. It will help you to come off public assistance.”
Stirrings from Mayor Gray’s office are encouraging:
Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Mayor Gray, argued the opposite: minimum-wage jobs help the chronically unemployed take a first step into the work force.
“Yes, Walmart jobs are not great,” Mr. Ribeiro said. “But for some people, it will be their first employment and they’re not qualified to do anything else. We need that entry-level benchmark in the District.”
Victor L. Hoskins, the deputy mayor for development, said Walmart’s threat to cancel projects if the measure took effect was no bluff. He calculated that 4,000 retail and construction jobs were at stake from three of the projects.
“The question is not $8.25 versus $12.50,” Mr. Hoskins said. “The question is $8.25 versus zero. It’s called no jobs.”
Former Mayor Williams offers some comments in the Washington Post today:
Why have D.C. officials met yearly with firms, including Wal-Mart (yes, the retailer so reviled of late), and invited them to Washington? Because business investment leads to retail convenience and jobs, which lead to more business investment, more jobs, neighborhood amenities and, ultimately, the kind of virtuous cycle that we’re beginning to see in many areas of the city.
Regrettably, the LRAA [Large Retailer Accountability Act], while well-intentioned, sends the opposite message: that the District is indifferent, if not hostile, to business. Moreover, for all the damage the bill will do to the D.C. business climate, it won’t help that many residents.
It’s good to see that citizens are beginning to understand of the stakes in these political games. It would be better if the culprits had been identified. Everyone knows that these policies are being imposed by labor unions.
As a sidelight, in Spain, where the youth unemployment rate is over 60%, the government has just abolished all minimum wage laws.