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. Sniffit

    "Wal-Mart is a 'job creator' remember? They should be able to pay employees in peanuts because Americans should just be happy to be working in this Obama economy. "

    The cyclical recessions consistently generated by the financial industry serve a purpose: making people happy to receive table-scraps for their labor because "my neighbors didn't and now they're on the street."

    July 12, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  2. Soap Dishford

    So according to these commentators, Walmart is the only place in America that sells Chinese goods? I did not know this.

    I did work at a Walmart when I was in college, and was on a 38hr a week schedule. I also did get some benefits and did make a wage that paid the bills from week to week, but nothing else, I was in college. But I also did it without a $100 a month cell phone, cable TV (which I still do not have and do not want) and while I had an old vehicle, it was paid for and I took care of it. I also live within my means. While I do not care much for Walmart (there is never enough cashiers), I do shop there on occasion. They were good to me and I did enjoy working for them.

    July 12, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Donna wrote:

    The CEO of Walmart is responsible for making sure nearly 3,000,000 Walmart employees have a job to go to every day and Walmart succeeds and stays in business. He is actually under paid given how many lives are depending on him.
    -----------------
    That's complete and utter nonsense. Using your argument the POTUS is responsible for 300,000,000 people, which he deserves an annual salary of $2,000,000,000 and he would be underpaid.

    July 12, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  4. Sivick

    Work their way up from walmart? there is no way up. For walmart employees or for the vast majority of americans. That's a myth. It died decades ago. That's not an opinion that is fact, backed up by numbers and statistics. the rich get richer and the poor can go take a walk. Walmart should be forced to pay their employees a decent wage over the entire country or they should be forcibly closed.

    Special thanks to the older generations who let things get like this. We the millenials really appriciate this crap future you've given us.

    July 12, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  5. daboys777

    At least they were able to save a few small businesses with this.

    July 12, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  6. NameAttoshAttosh

    I stop shopin loooooooooong time go targat

    July 12, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  7. rs

    The CEO of Walmart is responsible for making sure nearly 3,000,000 Walmart employees have a job to go to every day and Walmart succeeds and stays in business. He is actually under paid given how many lives are depending on him.
    _____________________________
    No man "earns" $20,000,000 a year. As long as you believe that is reality, you are part of the problem. Given the poverty WalMart distributes in low wages, no insurance and no benefits, those people are "depending" on someone whose core belief is America needs a poor, underclass.

    July 12, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  8. Guess

    I have a new found appreciation for marion, he told it like it really is, no wonder the gop are attacking you, how dare you fight for a decent wage, but the ceo needs a bigger yacht

    July 12, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "way to keep all those blacks on the unemployment line and on the democrat planatation.'

    And how would Walmart's sub-subsistence wages that require people to obtain state run health insurance assistance and food stamps change that? Hmmm? Walmart even does things like putting instruction in the paycheck envelope for how to get on the state health insurance program for low-income and no-income people. Corporations and people like Walmart and the Waltons view these programs as ways to subsidize their profits, which means a portion of every dollar of the Walton's $80B empire they have amassed was essentially a handout from the gov't.

    July 12, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  10. BILL, WI

    Read the text of the Large Retailers Accountability Act, with this question in mind. Why is WALMART the only retailer affected?

    Does that mean retail workers and cashiers at Sears, Bloomingdales or Whole Foods and Safeway will only make only minimum wage in D.C.

    This Act is only a word game directed at WALMART.

    July 12, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  11. Mike Wallace

    "It must be said wrote:

    In 2010 they employeed 2,100,000 people. You are a complete imbecile. You would rather those 2 MILLION plus people (probably closer to 3 MILLION now) be unemployed and on the government dole."

    YOu apparently do not understand even the most basic points of supply and demand or economic shifts.

    July 12, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  12. Data Driven

    Berry used to smoke crack, and yet he makes more sense than many of you. $12.50 is not 50k a year, let's start there. Next, Rudy is correct that low-wage workers need the public dole. Perhaps Berry wants people to pay their own way.

    Minimum wage is fine when you're a kid living with your parents who likely pay most of your bills. But Walmart doesn't hire just kids; most of their workforce is over 30. By not paying adults a living wage, Walmart costs us money as a society, far more than whatever we save from their "everyday low prices".

    Walmart is not a "starter" job, like fast-food chains.

    July 12, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    400 members of the extended Walton family account for nearly 20% of the private wealth in this country. Note the word private.

    July 12, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  14. Woman In California

    The closest Walmart to me was so desperate to open but too cheap to build a new store. So cheap, that they bought out one of Target's old locations (which is too small) for their operations. Since opening, there's been so many car accidents on the main street that the City finally stepped in and made some changes. Everywhere Walmart goes, chaos follows. Trappling deaths, fights, shoplifting and lawsuits all trademarks of Walmart. Not a classy place by all means.

    July 12, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  15. Fair is Fair

    "I too might be dating myself, Fair. I started at minimum wage flipping burgers at $.95 / hour. I can remember my first "raise" jumping me up to $1.25 / hour. Oh, the excitement was monumental. That being said, I do believe the cost of living has increased on a much higher level than wages have in the past 50 years. That Walmart is pulling in billions (somewhere near or at 14.7 B – don't quote me, I might be off a few billion) yearly profit is a testament to what Walmart leadership thinks is good economic growth. I don't remember the hamburger shop I first worked at hitting those profits ... nor to I remember folks trying to make a living off of flipping burgers in quite the same manner as so many Walmart employees are now trying to make a living off of their meager wages. There problem isn't working your way up in America. The problem is working your way out of the ditch. Not enough shovels ... to deep a ditch."
    ---------
    Let's go with $14.7 Billion in profits. Where do those profits go? Shareholders. There's 3.3 Billion shares of Wal-Mart outstanding. That's 4 bucks a share, annualy. Wal-Mart trades at around $80 per share, so the investor is yielding 5% return on investment. Not bad, but it's not tearing up the road, either. And lest we forget, all of those profits are before-tax... the government is getting a pretty penny out of Wal-Mart's success.

    And who exactly are the shareholders? LOTS of people, Lynda... including just about anyone with a 401(k). So depending on how you look at it, a successful Wal-Mart isn't such a bad thing. Actually, I kinda wish there were more of these kinds of success stories.

    July 12, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Walmart does not employ 3 million people in the US. It employs 2 million world wide.

    July 12, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  17. Bill from GA

    The article is about Barry and Walmart over minimum wage, but it has to turn into a 'let's All Bash Walmart' session.

    You lefties complain that Walmart sells made-in-China goods. Like Budweiser beer, Bear aspirin, Centrum Vitamins, Castrol oil, Samsung TVs (they might be made in China). The same products you might buy at another large, national chain. But it has become liberal-cool to bash Walmart these days.

    Capitalism essentially allows a business to pay what it takes to fill the job. I'm more concerned about CEOs making tens of millions, or investment bankers making hundreds of millions, if the Government is going to control wages.

    July 12, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  18. Mel

    "The closest Walmart to me was so desperate to open but too cheap to build a new store. So cheap, that they bought out one of Target's old locations (which is too small) for their operations. "
    ______________________________________
    Is your real name Rachel Jeantel?

    July 12, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  19. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Actually, I kinda wish there were more of these kinds of success stories."

    I have no doubt you do so wish, Fair.

    July 12, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  20. Tom

    Marion Barry. Classic. IOIYAD.

    July 12, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  21. 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!. If they don't make money not much else happens. If the business feels the environment is not right, they don't open there. If the city council would have done an across the board minimum wage increase to $12.50. What would the arguement be then?

    July 12, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  22. 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.

    July 12, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  23. Mel

    @it must be said

    "Walmart keeps those colords in there place!"
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Collards are are only carried in a Wal-Mart that has an internal grocery store. They are usually found on the vegetable isle.

    July 12, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  24. tom l.

    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.

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

    July 12, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  25. Greg in Arkansas

    "Wal-Mart trades at around $80 per share, so the investor is yielding 5% return on investment. Not bad,..."
    Good luck with the $80 per share when enough people finally DON'T have enough money left at the end of the week (because of their minimum wage job) to purchase YOUR wal-mart shares when you get ready to cash out and retire.

    July 12, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
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