UPDATE 2-Washington mayor vetoes wage bill aimed at big retailers
Sept 12 (Reuters) - The mayor of Washington, D.C., Vincent Gray, on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have forced big retailers to pay a premium over the local minimum wage, calling it "a job killer" for a city trying to lure Wal-Mart and other big-box stores that have long favored suburban locations.
The bill, approved by the city council two months ago, would have required big retailers to pay a 50 percent premium on the local minimum wage of $8.25 per hour in the U.S. capital. Backers said that Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, and others can easily afford it to enter the District of Columbia's fast-growing market.
Major U.S. retailers, including Target Corp and Home Depot Inc, had opposed the bill.
Wal-Mart has proposed opening six stores in the nation's capital, which were forecast to employ 1,800 people. Had the bill passed, Washington would have become the first city to require big-box retailers to pay higher wages.
"The bill is a job killer, because nearly every large retailer now considering opening a store in the District has indicated that they will not come here or expand here if this bill becomes law," Gray said in a statement.
Wal-Mart praised the move. "Now that this discriminatory legislation is behind us, we will move forward on our first stores in our nation's capital," the company said in a statement.
Proponents of the bill said the measure would have been a positive for the city.
"Washington, D.C., deserves better than employers who don't respect the community," said Sarita Gupta, executive director of the labor group Jobs with Justice. "This bill would have positive ripple effects across the entire District economy, because studies have shown that low-wage workers are more likely to spend extra money on local goods and services."
The bill had targeted non-unionized stores with more than 75,000 square feet (7,000 square meters) of interior space operated by companies with annual revenue of $1 billion a year.
They would have had to pay a minimum wage of $12.50 an hour. The District's existing $8.25 an hour minimum wage already exceeds the $7.25 federal minimum. The bill would have given a four-year exemption to big retailers already in the District of Columbia.
Chicago's City Council approved a similar measure in 2006 requiring Wal-Mart and other big retailers to pay much higher wages, but Mayor Richard Daley vetoed it. Wal-Mart now has nine stores in Chicago.