Walmart battling D.C. city council over new store opening


(CBS News) A Washington, D.C., neighborhood is up in arms about an incoming Walmart store. In Southeast D.C., residents and business owners are urging compromise with the retail giant, including Carl Williams, the owner of a barber shop across the street from the planned Walmart site.

"Compromise," Williams said, urging Walmart to meet the wage demands of city council members halfway, "Do $9, $9.50, or something."

The D.C. city council recently approved a law that calls for Walmart to pay what they call a living wage or $12.50 an hour, $4.50 more than the city's $8.25 required minimum wage.

City councilman Vincent Orange says Walmart's balance sheet can surely absorb the difference.

"Their CEO makes $11,000 an hour. I know he's not going to come to work for $8.25 per hour."

Washington leaders believe they are negotiating from a position of strength. CBS News' Jeff Pegues reports they maintain if Walmart moves on, another so-called "big box" retailer will fill the void.

However, Walmart has faced similar challenges in other cities and has triumphed. Seven years ago, Chicago's former mayor Richard Daley, vetoed a similar wage ordinance and allowed Walmart to open a store within city limits.

Today, Walmart says the company just successfully opened its ninth store in Chicago and employs 2,000 people at just above the Illinois state minimum wage.

Company Spokesman Steven Restivo insists that the D.C. Council law unfairly targets Walmart.

"We just don't think it's the role of government to provide arbitrary thresholds for some businesses and not others," Restivo told Pegues.

And Walmart has supporters in Washington who disagree with the council's rigid demands and believe $8.25 an hour could be an opportunity.

"I would rather for them to have that raise but if not, it stills opens the door for people who do not have jobs, including myself right now," resident Donald Thomas said.