July 12th, 2013
12:19 PM ET
1 year ago

Marion Barry defends Walmart vote in Washington

Updated 1:22 p.m. ET, 6/12

(CNN) - Marion Barry, former Washington D.C. mayor and now city councilman, is standing by his vote to raise the district's minimum wage for large retailers–a move that throws a wrench in Walmart's plans to open its doors in the nation's capital.

"What really tipped me over the edge was the fact that Walmart was sticking us up. By saying if you don't do this, we're going to do that–we're going to leave here," the Democrat said Thursday on Fox News.


The bill, known as the Large Retailer Accountability Act, would require big retailers to pay a minimum wage of $12.50, a 50% hike above the city's current minimum wage, which is already a dollar more than the minimum wage in neighboring Virginia and Maryland.

Walmart had publicly opposed the bill's provisions, saying in a Washington Post opinion piece that the cost increase would create "an uneven playing field" and "challenge the fiscal health of our planned D.C. stores."

And a spokesman for the company said the bill will cause Walmart to halt construction on three of the six stores planned for the city. Two stores are already scheduled to open this fall.

"This was a difficult decision for us...but the council has forced our hand," a Walmart spokesman told CNN's John Berman. "Our wages and benefits meet or exceed those offered by most of our competitors."

CNNMoney: Walmart's low wages cost taxpayers

Barry said Walmart's ultimatum further encouraged his decision to vote for the minimum wage bill.

"You don't get a job at any price," he said Thursday. "They have held us hostage, we're not going to take it."

Walmart says the six proposed stores would create 1,800 jobs and bring more affordable products to underserved communities. The retailer has been working with the district for three years to start building a solid reputation among concerns that it would drive out small businesses.

Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray, as well as the Washington Post's editorial board, have been supportive of Walmart's efforts, arguing the economic development would be a net win for the city.

CNNMoney: Walmart: We promote 500 workers a day

In the opinion piece published Tuesday, Walmart described the city council's move as an "eleventh-hour effort to try to undermine" the company's attempts to be a beneficial player in the community.

The bill defines a "large retailer" as a business that has 75,000 square feet and whose parent company's gross revenues total $1 billion or more per year. While the bill appears to be targeting Walmart, the Washington Post reports that the grocery chain Wegmans has also expressed concerns about the legislation.

The bill now goes to Mayor Gray's desk, where he can sign or veto it. Gray has not said which way he will go. If he chooses the latter, Barry pledged the city council would override his veto.

In the confrontational interview, Fox News host Eric Bolling brought up Barry's own controversy, in which he was censured and fined Thursday by the city's ethics board over financial disclosure violations.

Asked why voters should trust him, Barry maintained that his experience qualifies him to make decisions for the city.

"I may lose credibility through you and your viewers, but I have gained credibility. I mean I was mayor for 16 years, another mayor for four years. I've been in this business since 31 years, trying to bring dignity and justice," he said.

Barry's return to politics marked a comeback after serving a six-month jail sentence for a 1990 drug possession charge and entering a 2005 guilty plea to misdemeanor tax charges.


Filed under: Washington D.C.
soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. Bill from GA

    "it must be said
    Walmart keeps those colords in there place!"

    To CNN:
    It is impossible to make sense of the censorship, and lack of, going on at you studios.
    You show a TOTAL lack of professionalism by the comments you publish, and what I know are not published. As other comments published refer to what is not published, it must be widespread.

    Again, your lack of professionalism is blatant.

    Ted Turner must be embarrassed to see what his masterpiece has turned in to.

    July 12, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  2. Greg in Arkansas

    In the 50's and 60's, companies viewed their employees as assets.....since then, they are viewed as liabilities. Management forgot that their employees were the customers of other industries....they cut the payroll to increase profits....they cut the purchase power of their own workers....and....eventually there are no customers for the stuff you make or sell.....

    July 12, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. Fair is Fair

    Wake up People!

    @it must be said.

    Also it should read WalMart keeps those coloreds in their place...

    There's your Spelling and English lesson for today, brought to you from one of us more intelligent coloreds.
    ------
    You do realize there's a troll posting in here using everyone else's names, and that was one of them. You do know that, right?

    July 12, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  4. army vet

    i work at walmart as my second job. i just want to correct some things said on this thread. walmart does offer health benefits for fulltime workers and partimers after a year on the job. the only jobs that are hired at minimum wage are cartpushers. the wages gradually go up according to the job. you can be promoted after 6 months. most of the management in the store is promoted from within walmart. i hope this helps inform people of the truth.

    July 12, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "Sniffit, you should stick to being a lawyer because you have no economic sense. None.'

    Oh? That's all you've got to refute what I said? Nothing substantive? What's your argument...or are you just going to vomit ad hominem? Wanna guess which one of us has taken a heckuva lot more economics than the other? Go ahead. Guess.

    July 12, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "The mere fact that Sniffit and Domincan would remotely support a guy who was caught on video smoking crack, CRACK, and they are defending him speaks volumes to their partisanship."

    I didn't defend Barry. I attacked Walmart. There's a difference. However, whether he smoked crack in the past has nothing to do with whether what came out of his mouth in this instance was objectively correct nor does it have anything to do with whether the attempt to force Walmart to step it up and pay its employees a living wage is justified and laudable in light of the excessive salaries it pays to its top management while forcing employees to accept nothing more than minimum wage part-time hours and a lifestyle that forces them to rely on gov't programs. Walmart is no less a slaver than the south was.

    July 12, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  7. ????

    Given the level of financial expertise demonstrated by some of these postings today, most of you people lack the intelligence to work at a Wal-Mart. Or anywhere else.

    July 12, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  8. Gurgyl

    Do not buy in Walmart...

    July 12, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  9. DENNA

    It amazes me how employers really believe that minimum wage is livable. I mean, these employees aren't looking to own yachts, mansions and country club memberships. They only want to live in a decent, feed their families, and may save a little bit. I think that all CEOs should be made to live, for one week, on what they pay their employees. Empathy is a great thing. Try it.!

    July 12, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  10. g

    time to try trickle up /trickle down is killing america

    July 12, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  11. ????

    "However, whether he smoked crack in the past has nothing to do with whether what came out of his mouth in this instance was objectively correct nor does it have anything to do with whether the attempt to force Walmart to step it up and pay its employees a living wage is justified and laudable in light of the excessive salaries it pays to its top management while forcing employees to accept nothing more than minimum wage part-time hours and a lifestyle that forces them to rely on gov't programs."
    +++++++++++++++++
    I guess they did not cover "run on" sentences in your vast number of economic courses.

    July 12, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    "You do realize there's a troll posting in here using everyone else's names, and that was one of them. You do know that, right?"

    "It is impossible to make sense of the censorship, and lack of, going on at you studios."
    -----------------------–
    Fair is correct. There is a fungus among us, spoofing people's avatar names. I'm giong to say that has a lot to do with the it.

    July 12, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  13. rs

    RandyIA

    Everybody is talking about how bad Walmart is. Just that proves the point that this bill is focused at Walmart. How would you feel if your business/employer gets a targetted tax increase. just because the city council didn't like the way you do business. I have no issue with Walmart, people forget that a business's job is to make money, Period!.
    _____________________________
    Given the damage WalMart does in every city it opens, it wouldn't be a surprise if the bill were aimed at them. However the question stands- all of the other big chains see to logic of this bill and aren't threatening to leave the market. Why can't or won't WalMart pay livable wages?

    July 12, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  14. RandyIA

    RS
    Why can't or won't WalMart pay livable wages?

    The market in general allows for Walmart to pay these wages. If walmart can't get the needed workforce, they would need to either switch to a technology that allows for less workers like self checkout, or increase the wages/benefits to have people want to move to the company.

    As far as the damage it does. There are chains opening for every area of our economy, and with any chain the smaller local markets suffer, jiffy lube/goodyear/firestone open in a location and will cause some local garages to close down. Lowes or Home Depot move in you will lose your small hardware stores and lumber yard. Sears/JCPenney/Macy's open and your local clothing stores suffer. This all comes down to businesses wanting to expand and having a superior business model. One advantage to the true "big box" stores is the malls and other retail establishments that open in the same vicinity the 1800 walmart jobs may have been 10000 if you look at the additional businesses that will not open along side them.

    July 12, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  15. Scaddywaddydodaday

    The likes of Wal-Mart, have all but ruined the American dream for so many. I'm appalled that the public still frequents their stores. They just don't see that they are enabling they're master, while master intends to make slaves of them forever.

    July 12, 2013 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  16. joepa14221

    I guess not mentioning the fact that union operations are exempt is a little liberal bias.

    July 13, 2013 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  17. army vet

    walmart pays quarterly bonuses to it's employees too. it is based on how your stores does and varies. as a part timer i would say my bonuses work out to about 1200 a year. please stop listening to all the propaganda. walmart is far from perfect and has some issues but all these false accusations are quite stupid.

    July 13, 2013 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
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