Gray said supporters of the bill had their hearts in the right place but that the measure was too narrowly targeted to help low-wage workers earn a better living.
"The more I delved into the bill," Gray said, "the more I realized how few people would benefit from this."
Two of the stores that Wal-Mart had threatened to abandon are located in majority-black communities east of the Anacostia River, where Gray lives and where unemployment is much higher than in the rest of the city. Wal-Mart said it would resume its plans to build all six stores.
"Mayor Gray has chosen jobs, economic development and common sense over special interests," Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo said. "Now that this discriminatory legislation is behind us, we will move forward on our first stores in our nation's capital."
The Rev. Graylan Hagler, one of the leading advocates for the bill, said the mayor had been listening more closely to Wal-Mart's lobbyists than to city residents. He also suggested that the mayor and the council weren't serious about a possible minimum wage increase.
Kimberly Mitchell, who works at Macy's downtown — a store that would have been affected by the bill only after a four-year phasing-in period — said Gray's veto "has further eroded the ability of D.C. residents and workers to earn enough money to take care of themselves and their families while remaining in the city."
The mayor disagreed, noting that Wal-Mart has pledged to fill more than half the jobs at its new stores with district residents.
"You're going to have a lot of people who get hired who don't have a job in the first place," Gray said.
Follow Ben Nuckols on Twitter at https://twitter.com/APBenNuckols.
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