Quietly, the Campaign for Better Wages Continues

Reposted on behalf of Respect DC
provided by Andrea Rosen

sept-17-2013-dc-living-wageWe remain disappointed and angry with Mayor Gray and Council Members Alexander, Bonds, Bowser, Catania, Cheh and Wells who made it clear that they are on the side of corporate greed and against the will of their constituents. Despite their inability to stand up to big, outside, corporations, we forced our elected officials to admit that $8.25 is not enough in DC. The rejection of the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) by a minority on the council and the Mayor was only the beginning of the fight for a living wage. We will not stop until all District workers are paid fairly.

“According to a Hart Research survey, 71 percent of DC residents were in favor of the LRAA. We have talked to thousands of District residents over the past several months, and the message we have heard is clear: We deserve better than the poverty wage jobs,” said Reverend Edwin Jones, Senior Pastor at Living Faith Baptist Church. ”Unfortunately, our Mayor and six of our Council Members disagree, and seem more interested in corporate money and attending ribbon cutting ceremonies, than in making sure DC residents have access to good jobs that will allow them to remain in an increasingly expensive city. DC residents know we are worth more and we will not stop until we get the wages we deserve.”

“Although the LRAA failed, we created an environment within the DC Council and the community in which the Mayor and three council members who voted with big business felt the need to attempt to cover up their abandonment of DC’s working families by introducing their own minimum wage proposals,” said Kimberly Mitchell, a lifelong Ward 7 resident and Macy’s employee. “Because of our work the living wage and minimum wage issues are at the forefront and our elected officials have finally been forced to pay attention to low wage workers. We will not let large corporations, working in conjunction with some of our elected officials, evict us from our city without a fight.”

“We will not allow the will of the people of the District to be manipulated by the same elected officials who just allowed large corporations like Walmart to bully them into submission,” said Reverend Graylan Hagler, Senior Pastor at Plymouth United Congregational Church of Christ. “This is one of the most expensive cities in America, and we need a minimum wage that reflects that reality. Because so many of our elected officials continue to fail on this issue, we will be developing a proposal that works for DC residents and we welcome all elected officials who stand with the people of this city to support us as we pass it into law.”

In addition, Respect DC has brought together a group of economic experts who are working to present options and arguments for the best possible minimum wage
proposal for our city. Council Members Marc Elrich in Montgomery County and Andrea Harrison in Prince George’s County along with DC City Council Chair Phil Mendelson seem to be coming together to push for a regional minimum wage of $11.50 an hour by 2016 and indexed to inflation after that. Their proposed legislation does not appear to include any increase for tipped workers. CLICK HERE to view what Elrich is proposing here.

Living wage advocates rally as DC Council votes, fails to override LRAA veto

On the 17th of September, supporters of the Large Retailer Accountability Act gathered in front of the Wilson Building for an attempt to stiffen coucilmember’s backbones. Mayor Gray has chosen Wal-Mart over low income workers and good jobs by vetoing the bill, as this is written it is yet to be seen if the Council will have the backbone to override.

Many speakers warned that “their next mayor” supports the LRAA, meaning that the councilmembers who are running for Mayor lose their votes unless they vote to override the Mayor’s Wal-Mart ordered veto of the LRAA.

Some possible next steps:

1: A ballot initiative identical to the LRAA. Does not involve the city’s budget so it can be done by ballot initiative. Poll results for the LRAA indicate this would pass, and door to door work has already been done to collect some of the poll data

2: Recall campaigns could be mounted against Councilmembers who voted with the Mayor. Anita Bonds would be an obvious targets, but difficult as she is at-large.

Tommy Wells and Murial Bowser should forget about their campaigns for mayor, they may have just made themselves unelectable, effectively recalling themselves before they could ever be elected in the first place.

3: Allegations of financial ties between Mayor Gray and Wal-Mart should be pursued aggressively. The Mayor is already worried about the danger of indictment for soliciting illegal campaign contributions, and for failure to report “shadow campaign” income and expenses. If any illegal funds are traced to Wal-Mart, the Mayor’s career is over, regardless of whether or not any indictment is ever issued.

When if comes to dealing with Wal-Mart and the proliferation of jobs that don’t pay enough to stay off welfare, no option should be off the table, no punches should be pulled, no quarter asked or given.

A nonprofit perspective on the “living wage” bill and Wal-mart in DC

On Friday, September 13th, the day after the Mayor vetoed the Large Retailer Accountability Act, the Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ) posed the question, “Will Nonprofits Join D.C. City Council’s Plan to Require Walmart to Pay a Living Wage?

One response that came to our attention is from the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, an organization whose mission is to “to use the law to make justice a reality for our neighbors who struggle with homelessness and poverty.” Here’s some of what they had to say:

In a city where a worker earning the current minimum wage of $8.25/hour would have to work 132 hours each week to afford the fair market rent on a 2 bedroom apartment, the prospect of a $12.50/hour wage could mean the difference between remaining a District resident or being forced to abandon a life-long home in DC for a less expensive jurisdiction. A livable wage is key to addressing the crisis of homelessness in the nation’s capital. Families and individuals who are homeless are not going to be able to earn their way out of shelter in a community where housing costs are as high as in DC, unless they are able to earn a better wage than the law presently mandates.

One of the Mayor’s cited reasons for vetoing the LRAA in his letter to the DC Council is that it would only raise the minimum wage for a small fraction of the District’s workforce. While we absolutely support a  higher living wage bill for all DC workers, the LRAA is an important step forward in allowing District workers to make a wage that will actually let them live in the place they have called home their entire lives. (For a point by point response to Mayor Gray’s stance against the LRAA, read the DC Fiscal Policy Institute’s blog.)

For the full article, see: “Save Money. Live Better.” Just Not DC Workers?” (…With Housing and Justice for All blog | 9-13-2013)

“Will Nonprofits Join D.C. City Council’s Plan to Require Walmart to Pay a Living Wage?” (Nonprofit Quarterly | 9-13-2013)

Living Wage Bill Mixtape

Courtesy of Chip Somedevilla / Gettysburg Images / New York TimesBy now we’ve told you how the bill made its way through Council, the heavy-duty organizing and coalition-building that’s taken place over the summer, and even how you can get involved — no matter how you feel about the bill.

We’ve heard strong opinions for and against the bill in Council, hints from the Mayor on how he’ll vote, and continued threats from Walmart to leave DC and drop development if the Large Retailer Accountability Act (i.e. the LRAA or “Living Wage” bill) were signed into law.  In other words, we know pretty well how the politicians and corporate executives feel. But what about those most impacted by the bill, like DC residents and retail employees themselves?

GrassrootsDC brings you this mixtape of voices collected from actions in support of the Living Wage bill across the District. We hope you enjoy!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Mixed with Head Roc’s 2012 track “Keep DC Walmart Free,” these are the voices of:

Reverend Virginia Williams (native Washingtonian, Ward 7 resident),
Kimberly Mitchell (Macy’s employee, UFCW Local400 member, lifelong Ward 7 resident,),
Tonya C. (former Walmart employee, fired from a Laural, MD location),
Cindy Murray (13 year Walmart associate at Hyattsville, MD store, member of OUR Walmart),
Mike Wilson (organizer with RespectDC), and
Inocencio Quinones (Ward 7 resident and organizer with OurDC)

We thank everyone who contributed to this mixtape, including all the speakers listed above, Head Roc for the musical element, and the folks that live-streamed a protest from a Hyattsville, MD location on September 5th, 2013.

Audio download available here (Living Wage Bill Mixtape), please share freely!


The Large Retailer Accountability Act: A Call To ACTION!

Cross-Posted on Behalf of Respect DC

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Living Wage Supporters-

Friday afternoon the DC Council transmitted the Large Retailer Accountability Act to Mayor Gray for him to sign or veto. The people of DC have told him loudly and clearly that we want him to sign the LRAA! Tuesday, hundreds turned out at Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church and heard speaker after speaker give powerful and inspirational testimony about why DC needs a retail living wage.

If the Mayor has not heard from you yet, you can contact him here<http://afl.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=2qBBm%2B7Z9j40GqaLlSXA%2FIsPugpGnc3q>and call him at 888-264-6154.

Now is the time to spread the word to all of your family and friends. Mayor Gray could act on the bill any time before Friday, September 13, 2013.  Make sure he has heard from you.<http://afl.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=sZWGTvpRoQMMUSfFq0LfCixTt6VOc8jN>

In addition, we are going to continue our canvassing efforts. We have collected thousands of petition signatures and personal stories from Ward 7
residents in support of the LRAA. You can read some here<http://afl.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=qJnETRztAhsZ3KIBNyLKWixTt6VOc8jN>.  More than 9 out of 10 of the people we talked to have signed our petition in support of the bill.  People in Ward 7 and across the city are calling on Mayor Gray to stand up to the large, out of town corporations trying to bully our city into accepting poverty wage jobs.  Sign up here to join us for canvassing.<http://afl.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=ribyX%2BmiD%2F5QoxmLBbIJryxTt6VOc8jN>

The time for action is now. Mayor Gray has the chance to follow in the footsteps of the leaders of the original March on Washington, just after celebrating its 50th anniversary, by taking a big step toward a living wage for all. Contact Mayor Gray today, and tell him to sign the LRAA!<http://afl.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=Ccs7CynzSJwutr0WKW4%2BcCxTt6VOc8jN>

-Mike Wilson, Respect DC Organizer