Thursday, September 5, 2013

$12 Minimum Wage Sought for Montgomery Co., MD; & DC Mayor's $12.50 LRAA Decision

Will our Mayor and Council surrender to Walmart blackmail?  [UNFORTUNATELY, YES]

Final revote -- Alas, the Council was unable to override the Mayor's veto.  In fact Anita Bonds actually dropped her support and voted NOT to override.  Does this indicate a split between her and Marion Barry??  If she runs for At Large again will this cost her support among poorer workers who might have been able to earn enough to barely support their families with $12.50?
Here is a detailed article about the final votes.

In separate but related developments, significant increases in minimum wages are being proposed and fought for throughout the country.  How much thought is being given to a maximum wage?

9/12/13  This just in, as anticipated, the Mayor has indeed vetoed the $12.50 for LRAA.  9/23/13   The Council has been unable to override the veto, and David Catania has introduced a $10.50 minimum wage bill.   His Mayoral opponent, Muriel Bowser (she of the 2 Walmarts in one ward) voted against the $12.50 wage.

In Washington, DC, the proposed law requiring large stores to pay their workers $12.50 is a topic of immediate interest and emotion.  Eight of 13 members in the DC City Council have voted YES on this measure including declared Mayoral candidate Jack Evans.  Unfortunately Mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser (whose Ward 4 has 2 Walmarts already under construction) and Tommy Wells, somehow believe that a wage of $26,000 for a 40 hour, 52 week job is sufficient to raise a family.  Since part time work is often the lot of workers in these kinds of job, they need to consider that the gross wages of someone working 30 hours for 50 weeks is only $18,750.  All this, of course, is before any taxes, Medicare or FICA has been deducted.  Mary Cheh, (Ward 4), who is up for election in 2014, Yvette Alexander (Ward 7) who squeaked into office again with a scant 40% vote, and David Catania (At Large) who is also up for election in 2014 are the remaining NO votes.

Please note that Council members' salaries a year ago ranged from $125 to $128 thousand, and a number also hold well paid outside jobs.  Phil Mendelson, who supports the $12.50 minimum, earns around $190,000.  Most of their staffers earn more than twice $12.50 an hour and some earn more than the Council members. See details below.

Now Mayor Gray, who has not yet declared for Mayor and is facing a $600,000 issue of campaign finance irregularities, has only a few more days to give this measure a YES or NO vote.  It has been reported that he lives near a proposed Walmart store location, but surely there are other retailers who could be motivated to choose this location.  No Mayor or Council should allow themselves to be blackmailed the day before a major vote by a threat by Walmart or any other business, to cancel their planned stores.  Of course, there are many who question why we should want 6 Walmarts in DC, given their questionable labor practices and  bribery conducted in other countries.  One also wonders whether Walmart has behaved here as they have elsewhere.

Charges of corruption and bribery are being investigated in Mexico, India and Brazil.  The New York Times has been following this story and "reveals that Wal-Mart de Mexico was not the reluctant victim of a corrupt culture that insisted on bribes as the cost of doing business. Nor did it pay bribes merely to speed up routine approvals. Rather, Wal-Mart de Mexico was an aggressive and creative corrupter, offering large payoffs to get what the law otherwise prohibited. It used bribes to subvert democratic governance — public votes, open debates, transparent procedures. It used bribes to circumvent regulatory safeguards that protect Mexican citizens from unsafe construction. It used bribes to outflank rivals.   

The above is a quote from, a detailed review of corruption and bribery involving a number of US companies.  Alas, Walmart is not the only company engaging in illegal bribes and corruption, but after reviewing some of the others, it seems to be the biggest wanting to play in our DC sandbox.  Furthermore, as you can see from the information below copied from Walmart's own site:, they definitely envision that they will have closed stores, and that there will also be closed businesses around these stores.  In fact this has been a major complaint--that they undersell other stores, even their own nearby Walmarts, to force neighboring businesses to fail and then buy them for redevelopment.  It seems logical that this is what they are doing in Ward 4, which is poised for economic takeoff, with their two stores.

Welcome To Walmart Realty
Walmart Realty, a division of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., is a real estate company that offers many development opportunities nationwide. Walmart Realty concentrates on commercial real estate located in or around our current and former locations.  Walmart Realty's mission is to find businesses to open in our former stores and clubs and to locate in available property around our stores. At Walmart Realty, we believe we have a responsibility to work with communities to find a use that generates economic growth and opportunity. We work at the local level with local brokers, economic development officials and elected leaders to find partners that best suits the needs of each local community.

In March 2014, I decided to go look at the upper Georgia Av. Walmart and the surrounding businesses. This Walmart is one story with ample parking.  The businesses across the street are also one story.  When asked if Walmart had affected their businesses the reaction was mixed, with some saying a very negative effect.  The biggest complaint was that they used to have parking in front of their stores so customers could park, pop in for a quick purchase and leave.  Now they have lost that parking because the street has been reconfigured to have only two lanes in front of them, but 3 lanes in front of Walmart.  Should they be forced to sell because of business failure, Walmart will have prime real estate where they can put up much taller buildings, and even build on top of themselves.

So I  guess the question is, who are the local elected leaders, development officials and brokers whom they are working with, and what rewards, if any, have been promised or paid to these same persons.  Are these the same people who have voted against a marginally living wage of $12.50 an hour?

A wage of $12.50 an hour may seem like a lot, but given the high price of living and finding housing in DC it is barely adequate.  In fact it has just been reported that Montgomery County is considering a minimum wage of $12.00 an hour for the ENTIRE county, and for ALL businesses, not just the big, high profit/income stores that are specified in DC's bill.  Of course, Walmart's top brass has little empathy for the struggles of their workers.  The top five executives in 2013 earned a total of $62,574,227.  Their leader, Michael Duke is paid $20,693,545.  See this link for more details.

In DC This Large Retailer Accountability Act will apply to stores with revenue over $1 billion, and 75,000 square feet.  This is a relatively small number of businesses who can well afford the $12.50, although they might have to pay upper management slightly less than they do now.

The August 30, 2013 issue of "Washington Hispanic" has a front page article about a law proposed in Maryland this Labor Day.  I will translate and summarize this article by Victor Caycho titled "Minimum Salary of $12 per hour."  "To rise above poverty we must begin with a fair salary", declared council member At-Large, Marc Erlich (D), author of this initiative.  He announced his presentation of a law to increase the minimum wage in Montgomery Co. MD for the entire county which has a growing Hispanic population.  The current $7.25 was placed in effect July 24, 2009.  He will formally present the bill on Sept. 10.

The plan includes salary adjustments based on inflation.  It also establishes that the county Commission of Human Rights will supervise the application of the law.  Erlich pointed out "Persistent poverty is the result of persistently low salaries in our economy."  Furthermore, the law would not just be applied locally, but would extend "to the businesses of the entire county."  He pointed out, "we have many thousands of workers who, in spite of working every day, don't earn enough to rise above the poverty level.  Thus, if they can, they seek help from local government for the necessities of housing, health and nutrition."

After reading the above statement I Googled "Walmart low wages cost taxpayers."  A lot of articles came up, and rather than choose some liberal sites whose names I recognized, I looked at a site for business oriented Forbes.  Even there the author said this was a serious issue that we taxpayers really need to study and know more about.  Then I read the six comments.  Five pointed out many uncomplimentary things about Walmart.  The one focused on the issue of welfare and related cheating and cheaters.

Erlick declared that "This is the time to fix this problem and Labor Day is the right date for us to unite with cities throughout the country which understand that rising above poverty and being self-sufficient begins with a fair and transparent salary."

Let us hope that our Washington, DC is one of those cities, and especially if the neighbor on our northern border is going to have a $12.00 minimum wage for ALL businesses, then surely our largest retailers can afford $12.50.  If Montgomery Co. has this pay scale, the argument that DC business will go over the border because it is cheaper there will be moot.  Please contact the mayor,, or phone his office at  888-264-6154.  Urge him not to veto the LRAA and bow to Walmart Blackmail.

[April 2014]  The Primary Election has come and gone.  An impressively small number of voters decided with a non majority vote to promote Muriel Bowser to the Democrat Mayoral candidacy.  Now she is challenged by David Catania, Independent.  Recently in Seattle, a progressive candidate won, much to the consternation of the 1% who are now licking their wounds and fighting back.  The winning candidate campaigned on a $15 minimum wage.  We can learn much from studying her successful campaign.

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