An effort by the Washington, D.C. Council to effectively zone Walmart out of the city by establishing a separate and much higher minimum wage for large retailers whose workers don’t belong to a labor union has been vetoed by the mayor and rightly so. Safeway, Giant, and their unionized workers have a lot to gain by blocking Walmart from entering the market but the city has a lot to gain from more stores and more competition.
But even though this bill was cynical and misguided, a lot of the enthusiasm for it was neither. I hope that kind of energy gets channeled into a more constructive direction like a simple increase in the current $8.25 minimum wage. D.C. has all the right conditions in place for the cost of such an increase to be borne by landlords and high-income consumers. The $12.50 an hour figure from the Walmart bill is probably too high (which is why the legislation exempted so many businesses) but there’s a large middle ground between $8.25 and $12.50 for a wage hike that would help the full spectrum of low-wage workers and not just protect a handful of establishments.