GrassrootsDC’s Living Wage Bill “Mixtape”

LRAA Petition Drop Off c/o the AFL-CIODespite the drop-off of over 30,000 petitions from DC residents urging the Mayor to sign the Large Retailer Accountability Act (pictured left), and a recent poll showing that a majority of residents support the LRAA, the Mayor used his pen to veto the bill. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, a vocal supporter of the bill, has rallied 8 votes in favor, but will need one more to override the Mayor’s veto. This override vote is scheduled as part of tomorrow’s legislative session, which will take place at the Wilson Building or available live online.

Meanwhile, what about those most affected by the living wage bill? GrassrootsDC’s Noelle Galos brings you this mixtape of DC residents, retail employees and organizers on what the LRAA means to them and how they feel about Wal-Mart’s presence in the District:

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

Rev. Virginia Williams (native Washingtonian, Ward 7 resident)
Kimberly Mitchell (Macy’s employee, lifelong DC resident)
Tonya C. (former Wal-Mart employee, fired from a Laural, MD location)
Cindy Murray (13 year Wal-Mart associate at Hyattsville, MD store),
Mike Wilson (organizer with RespectDC)
Inocencio Quinones (Ward 7 resident & organizer with OurDC)

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

Audio download available (.mp3): Living Wage Bill Mixtape. Please share freely!

DC mayor vetoes living wage ordinance

Today, Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the controversial Large Retailer Accountability Act. The bill would have required retail stores with more than 75,000 square feet and whose parent company makes more than $1 billion annually, to pay workers a minimum wage of $12.50 an hour. FSRN’s Noelle Galos reports.

Wal-Mart workers protesting in North CarolinaCiting the negative impact on DC’s economy, including an alleged 4,000 lost jobs if Wal-Mart carried through on threats to halt construction of three stores, Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the LRAA. Gray said it was “not a true living-wage bill, because it would raise the minimum wage only for a small fraction of the District’s workforce.” But living wage advocates argue large corporations like Wal-Mart are best able to afford the payroll increase. Cindy Murray, a 13-year Wal-Mart employee, spoke out in favor of the proposed law at a town hall last month.

“If you look at the wages today, $12.50 is nothing. They could do that without passing it onto the consumers, and I want them to stop saying they need to pass it onto the consumer. What is wrong with taking it out of their profit? Because they can still make billions, even after paying us a decent wage.”

Next Tuesday, the City Council has scheduled an override vote with the hopes that they can sway one more council member to get to a veto-proof majority. Wal-Mart said today it would resume construction on the three stores only if the bill fails.  Similar measures in Chicago and New York in years past were not able to successfully override Mayoral vetoes. Noelle Galos, FSRN, Washington, DC.

Listen or download audio here.

Wal-Mart workers protest retaliation across United States

Today, Wal-Mart workers in 15 cities across the US are gathering to protest low wages, poor working conditions, and alleged retaliation by the company against workers who participated in federally-protected strikes.  FSRN’s Noelle Galos reports from Washington, DC.

Walmart protest sign in Chicago courtesy of @changewalmart

Walmart protest sign in Chicago courtesy of @changewalmart

Wal-Mart employees began walking off the job in protest last year, culminating in a Black Friday action that drew thousands of workers and their supporters.  But organizers say the multi-national company has retaliated.

Former Wal-Mark associate Tonya C., who asked that her last name be withheld because of an unrelated legal matter, was fired from her position at a Laurel, Maryland location.

“They retaliated against me and fired me illegally, to keep me from speaking and telling stories.”

To date, Wal-Mart has denied that it behaved inappropriately.

In June, Wal-Mart workers gathered at the company headquarters in DC.  Protesters carried more than 180,000 petitions, but were blocked from entering the building, leading to a sit-in and the arrest of 10 people.

Organizers with OUR Wal-Mart are billing today’s national action as the largest since Black Friday.  They say police arrested three workers in New York City this morning.  Noelle Galos, FSRN, Washington, DC.

Listen to or download audio file here.