MSNBC’s Hayes Criticizes Wal-Mart’s 'Raw Assertion of Power' Against D.C. Wage Law

July 12th, 2013 4:36 PM

On the Wednesday night edition of All In, host Christ Hayes devoted a segment to discussing the contention in our nation’s capital the introduction of Wal-Mart stores into the District. Basically, the new law would force the discount retailer to pay its employees at least $12.50 an hour in each of its proposed six new stores in the city limits.

Hayes tried to argue that instead of opposing the new legislative measures because of the economic hardships it would create, Wal-Mart was only averse to the new requirement so it could show a “raw assertion of power.” He claimed that the store wanted to be able to “pay their workers whatever they want and dare anyone to tell them otherwise.”

Of course, Hayes did not bother to research further into what the bill actually dictates. If he had, he might have realized and then been able to tailor his report to show just how much this bill specifically targets Wal-Mart and how it is a "raw assertion of power" not just against the retail chain but any individual employee willing to work for less than the so-called "living wage."

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As Hayes noted, the bill applies to any retailer with more than $1 billion in sales and a store of more than 75,000 square feet of floor space. Strangely, he neglected to mention that this law does not apply immediately to existing stores and also does not include stores that have unionized workers. With those caveats in mind, it turns out only Wal-Mart would be affected by this change in policy.

Furthermore, his claim that Wal-Mart wants the freedom to pay their employees “whatever they want” is ridiculous. Washington DC has a minimum wage that is a dollar higher, $8.25, than the federal minimum wage requirement, something the store seems to be content with paying. But according to the new law, cynically titled the Large Retailer Accountability Act, no individual can negotiate a wage with Wal-Mart that is lower than the $12.50 minimum. Only collective bargaining agreements with a union can trump the law's $12.50/hour minimum requirement.

What's more, Hayes failed to consider the ridiculous notion of paying the lowest-skilled, entry-level Wal-Mart employee $12.50 an hour in the D.C. market. For example, an entry level congressional staffer, who is generally required to have some kind of college degree and specialized skill set, makes around just $30,000 per year. Under this legislation, a Wal-Mart employee without even a high school diploma would be able to make only a few thousand dollars less, a $26,000 yearly salary. 

Although liberal media hosts like Hayes often insight they are motivated by a desire to improve the plight of the less fortunate in urban areas, the Brown University alumnus’ arguments make it seem as if he doesn’t really care about them at all. All six of the proposed Wal-Mart stores would be built in areas of the District that have a limited number of retail stores and are in serious need of jobs. According to a Fortune report, the stores will be built to provide convenient and inexpensive retail options for some of the poorest areas, like Wards 7 and 8 who have unemployment rates as high at 23 percent.

Instead of providing these areas with up to 1,800 new jobs making more than $17,000 per year, liberals like Hayes would rather subject residents to continue to try to get by jobless. What's more, poor residents without their own cars would have few options to travel to Maryland or Virginia to use Wal-Marts and other discount retailers in those locations, forcing them to use higher-priced options with less selection in their neighborhoods. Additionally, Wal-Mart has shown their commitment to helping the community it would be joining through its donation of more than $3.8 million dollars to D.C.-area charities and food banks before it's even making a single cent in the nation's capital.

These are all considerations a responsible, objective journalist would take into account when reporting the story, but Hayes's objective is not reporting the news. Rather, he seems committed to furthering a biased and error-laden liberal narrative about corporate greed.

The transcript of Hayes’ comments is provided below:


All In with Chris Hayes

July 10, 2013

8:00 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS HAYES: The country's largest private employer dared Washington DC lawmakers to call their bluff today. Just twenty-four hours before a key vote, executives and lobbyists from Wal-Mart issued the following threat to DC councilmembers: try to force us to pay our employees a living wage, and we will not build stores in the District. The council was going to pass a living wage bill; Wal-Mart was going to pack up and go home promising to cancel plans for at least three of six stores planned for the District. At least one lawmaker said it felt like Wal-Mart was sticking “guns to councilmembers’ heads.” Still, the DC council held their ground and voted 8-5 this afternoon to require retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and operating in spaces 75,000 square feet or larger, to pay their employees no less than $12.50 an hour. Now, that is still not a ton of money. We’re talking about $26,000 a year in a town that is among the top ten most expensive places in the country. Given that Wal-Mart is one of the most profitable companies on the planet, paying its DC workers a few dollars more than the prevailing minimum wage will probably amount to nothing more than a rounding error. Eight votes still leaves the council one vote short of being able to override a potential veto by DC Mayor Vincent Gray, who pushed Wal-Mart to plan stores for his own underserved neighborhoods. In a statement mayor Gray said “I strongly urge the council to consider whether this legislation will actually promote strong economic development in the district and expand job opportunities for district residents.” In other words, he's afraid the bill the drive business, Wal-Mart, out of DC which was precisely the case almost seven years ago when Wal-Mart pulled the same stunt in Chicago. The city council passed a similar living wage bill in 2006; Wal-Mart threatened to cancel plans to open several new stores in the city, and then Mayor Richard Daley vetoed the bill. Let’s be clear, this has nothing to do with Wal-Mart’s balance sheet. This is about Wal-Mart’s raw assertion of power. The notion that Wal-Mart can pay their workers whatever they want and dare anyone to tell them otherwise. That’s why, moments after the DC council voted to stick to their guns, Wal-Mart announced they would be cancelling plans for three stores in DC.