We recently discussed federal and state minimum wage issues in a blog post highlighting McDonald’s somewhat out-of-touch proposed budget for its minimum wage employees. “Big box” retailers have long been the subject of criticism for paying their workers particularly low wages, drawing displeasure from observers who claim that the companies fail to pay their employees a living wage. D.C. lawmakers are now looking to target companies such as Wal-Mart by imposing a minimum wage specifically for large retailers, and at least one Portland town is considering following suit.
According to an Associated Press report published at bigstory.ap.com, retail giant Wal-Mart and the D.C. Council are embroiled in a dispute regarding a proposed bill that would raise the minimum wage that certain large retailers would be required to pay their employees. In order to be affected, retailers would have to occupy a physical space of at least 75,000 square feet and have annual business revenue of more than $1 million. The proposed measure would raise the hourly wage for affected workers from $8.25 to $12.50, or by more than half. Not surprisingly, Wal-Mart vehemently opposed the measure, and has threatened to cancel plans for three potential stores in the D.C. area if the proposal becomes law. On the other hand, workers and unions have been critical of Wal-Mart’s wages and working conditions for some time, and strongly support the proposal.
The Oregon town of Sherwood has taken notice of the proposed measure, and was considering enacting a similar law, but is now considering alternatives as such a measure would be in conflict with state law. A report published at Oregonlive.com indicates that the town has formed a committee in the wake of public outcry regarding a new Wal-Mart being built in the Sherwood Town Center. Among the concerns associated with the new store include an influx of workers who require government assistance as well as problems with overnight RV parking in the parking lot. Some of the other legislation that the town is considering includes:
-A law requiring companies to notify the city regarding the use of pesticides and hazardous materials
-A law limiting overnight camping in public parking lots
-A law similar to Portland’s sick leave ordinance, which requires that employers give employees 40 hours of sick leave per year
-A law emulating San Francisco’s Health Care Security Ordinance, which requires certain employers to set aside an additional $1 to $3 for health care costs
Regardless of the theoretical merits or drawbacks of raising the minimum wage, it is a fact that it has not kept up with the rising living costs across the country. As big-box retailers like Wal-Mart continue to expand, communities will need to determine how to respond to the issues they present.
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