Dougan Pens Letter to District of Columbia Mayor Gray Urging Support for Minimum Wage Bill
Yesterday, NFFE National President William R. Dougan penned a letter to Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray urging him to support the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA). The measure would ensure workers employed by large corporations are compensated at the fair rate of $12.50 per hour, rather than federally mandated $8.25 per hour.
The measure was recently passed by the City Council in order to address the skyrocketing cost of living in the District, which has far outpaced growth in middle class wages. With rent for a one bedroom apartment ranging from $1,500-$2,000 per month on average, it is nearly impossible for low-middle income workers to get by. The bill would constitute a sizable pay boost for low-income workers in the area, increasing hourly pay for affected minimum wage workers by over 50%.
Despite the urgent need for action, the measure has not been without controversy. Walmart, America’s largest corporation, has since revoked its plans to open three stores in the area citing the LRAA. The law applies only to retail stores larger than 75,000 square feet that have corporate profits of over $1,000,000,000 annually. Due to widespread business opposition to the measure, Mayor Gray has yet to announce whether he plans to sign or veto the bill. The members of the City Council are currently whipping the votes necessary to override a veto, should the Mayor choose to oppose it.
Below is the full text of National President Dougan’s Letter to Mayor Vincent Gray:
Honorable Vincent C. Gray
1350 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
July 31, 2013
Dear Mayor Gray,
On behalf of thousands of low-wage workers in the D.C. area struggling to make ends meet, I am writing to humbly urge your support for the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRRA). This “living wage” bill rightfully requires large city retailers to pay a minimum $12.50 per hour – an increase of $4.25 per hour from the current rate. At a mere $8.25 per hour, it is impossible to escape poverty. Increasing minimum wage to $12.50 per hour increases annual earnings to $26,000 and moves our neediest workers above the cusp of poverty.
Yesterday marked the fourth consecutive year without an increase in federal minimum wage. As you know, economic inequality is becoming an increasingly urgent concern here in the District. With one in every five residents living in poverty, D.C. holds the highest poverty rate of any state in the nation. Hard-working individuals earning only $8.25 per hour cannot afford rent, childcare, food, education, and other basic necessities of modern life.
While the working class hopelessly struggles to make ends meet, large corporations continue to profiteer at their expense. For example, Walmart currently clears $450 billion in revenues per year, all the while paying workers 28% less on average than other large retailers.
LRRA will apply only to retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more per year, and with stores that are 75,000 square feet or larger. Walmart claims that this bill is “arbitrary and discriminatory.” However, corporations such as Home Depot, Costco, Target, and Macy’s, will also be affected. These businesses will be better able to adjust to LRRA because they already have a long tradition of compensating their employees responsibly. For example, the average Costco worker currently makes $21.96 per hour, well above the proposed increase in minimum wage.
Walmart’s low wage rates are detrimental to our taxpayers as well. By allowing Walmart to pay their employees so little, the federal and District governments are in essence providing a corporate subsidy. A recent Congressional report found that the workforce of a single Walmart store consumes roughly a million dollars in public benefits each year. Walmart relies on “safety net” programs like Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), school lunch, and housing assistance programs to provide for its employees, rather than paying workers the wages needed to live without government support. The burden is then passed along to taxpayers.
The working men and women of Washington, D.C. deserve better. A “living wage” should be afforded to any individual willing to work hard to earn it. Increasing the minimum wage is a practical and affordable way to solve this problem. It will take a great deal of moral fortitude and courage to stand up to corporate giants, but it is the right thing to do. Let’s give our workers a fighting chance.
I strongly encourage you to support the workers of Washington, D.C. and sign the Large Retailer Accountability Act.
William R. Dougan
National Federation of Federal Employees