- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Representatives from six national businesses sent a letter to D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray on Wednesday urging him to veto “misguided” legislation that would raise minimum hourly wages at large retail stores.

The letter submitted by Home Depot Inc., Target Corp., AutoZone Inc., Lowe's Cos. Inc., Walgreen Co. and Macy's Inc. sought the veto on the grounds that the Large Retailer Accountability Act is unfairly discriminatory. The letter also for the first time confirms some of the retailers — in addition to Wal-Mart — that could alter plans for store development in the District as a result of the bill.

“With the passage of the Large Retailer Accountability Act, any future plans for retail expansion in the city must be revisited,” the letter states. “Arbitrary conditions that subject our stores to rules that other employers, including countless competitors, are not equally subjected to unfairly distort the marketplace and are cause for grave concern.”

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has threatened to abandon three of six stores planned for the D.C. area if the bill stands. The legislation requires that large retailers meeting specific requirements pay a minimum hourly wage of $12.50 — an increase of $4.25 over the city’s minimum wage. The legislation is aimed at stores larger than 75,000 square feet whose parent companies gross at least $1 billion per year but exempts those that employ union labor.

Gray administration officials previously said it could cost the city additional development from at least three unnamed retailers that had voiced their opposition.

Chanda Washington, spokeswoman for Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor L. Hoskins, said Wednesday that she could not confirm whether those three businesses were among the six who wrote the letter urging a veto.

Of the companies included in the letter, five already have stores in the District. AutoZone and Walgreen each have five stores, and Macy's, Target and Home Depot each have one, according to the stores’ websites. Lowe's has no locations in the District but is considering building a store at the Dakota Crossing shopping center in Northeast, near the Costco that opened last year.

The wage bill, which initially would apply only to new businesses, has most closely been associated with Wal-Mart. But other large retailers that already are doing business in the city and meet its specifications would be subject to its provisions and would have to pay the higher wages after four years.

Aside from Lowe's, Ms. Washington said no commitments have been made by any of the involved retailers to other D.C. sites and therefore she could not discuss those currently under negotiation.

The legislation was approved by the D.C. Council last week in an 8-5 vote. It is unclear when the bill would be sent to Mr. Gray, but after its receipt he has 10 days to veto it or sign it. If vetoed, the council has 30 business days to stage an override vote, which would require nine members voting for it.