DCTC Urges Gray to Sign ''Living Wage'' Bill

In letter critical of Walmart, transgender organization cites economic disparities

As Mayor Vincent Gray (D) considers vetoing a bill that would force employers to pay a higher minimum wage to workers amid threats from Walmart that the company will scuttle its plans to set up shop in the District if the measure passes, advocates for the transgender community are wading into the debate.

In a letter posted to the DC Trans Coalition’s website earlier this month, Andy Bowen, the social policy organizer for the organization who has been instrumental in pushing the D.C. Council to support pro-transgender pieces of legislation, asks Gray, on behalf of the transgender community, to sign the so-called ”living wage” bill, also known as the Large Retailer Accountability Act, into law.

”You have been tremendous on transgender issues,” Bowen tells Gray in the letter. ”Since entering office, you have supported vital programs for our community, such as Project Empowerment; you have made strong showings of support for priorities, such as the Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act; and you understand the importance of following the community’s lead.

”On that last point, please remember: labor standards are a transgender issue,” Bowen writes. ”If the trans community is to thrive, it needs employers that pay well, and can provide a guarantee that they will treat trans workers with respect. Walmart, without the strong urging of the D.C. government via the Large Retailer Accountability Act, is not that employer.”

The letter specifically points to Walmart’s current wages, which do not match the city’s definition of a living wage, meaning employees of the company may not be able to afford housing in the District.

”Furthermore, speaking to the discrimination point, Walmart – according to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2013 Corporate Equality Index – does not provide a program for cultural competency across the entire company,” the letter reads. ”Non-discrimination polices mean nothing without a solid regime of enforcement.”

The living-wage bill passed the D.C. Council on an 8-5 vote in July, with future mayoral hopefuls Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), both potential rivals if Gray should choose to stand for re-election, voting against the measure.

Most political observers expect Gray veto of the bill. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), who supports the bill, has not yet sent it to the mayor, indicated to NBC News 4 that he hopes to get one of the five who originally opposed the bill to switch sides, which would give the D.C. Council the nine votes needed to override any veto.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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