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Texans Call For Boycott Of Retailers That Fought Wage Bill

In Texas, back-to-school shoppers are being urged to boycott Macy's and Kroger stores for their efforts to quash a wage fairness bill. In this file photo, a man shops at a Sears store in Fort Worth.
Tom Pennington
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In Texas, back-to-school shoppers are being urged to boycott Macy's and Kroger stores for their efforts to quash a wage fairness bill. In this file photo, a man shops at a Sears store in Fort Worth.

A group is calling on back-to-school shoppers to boycott Macy's and Kroger stores in Texas this weekend, in retaliation for the national retailers' efforts to quash a bill that would have strengthened the state's wage discrimination law.

The bill was vetoed in June after winning bipartisan approval in the legislature. Its sponsors included state Sen. Wendy Davis, who told KERA, "if a woman didn't discover [a pay imbalance with her male colleagues] within her first 180 days of employment she has no cause of action in the State of Texas."

Gov. Rick Perry offered no explanation for the veto — but this week, the Houston Chronicle reported that Perry had received "letters against the measure from the Texas Retailers Association and five of its members," including the two companies.

From NPR member station KSTX, Ryan Poppe filed this Newscast report from Austin:

"Macy's department store and Kroger's groceries urged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to veto the Texas Fair Pay Act, which would have allowed women to sue employers for wage discrimination in state court. Ed Espinoza of is leading a boycott against the retailers.

"'Basically if they want to veto the legislation, we are saying you can veto the stores right back by not going to the stores this weekend,' he says.

"This particular weekend is the state's annual back-to-school tax-free holiday. Shoppers save the 6.25 percent sales tax on things like blue jeans and backpacks. Typically, Texas retailers bring in an extra 6-7 percent in sales revenue. Boycott backers want Macy's and Kroger's to miss out on some of that revenue bump this year."

On the Chronicle's story about the fight against the bill, a retailer called the measure "unnecessary." The top-rated comment on that story came from a man who wrote, "If the bill was unnecessary, then why veto it? Goodbye Kroger and Macy's! We'll remember this one."

In addition to states, large retailers have also clashed with cities over how much they pay employees recently.

Earlier this summer, Wal-Mart said it would build only half of the stores it had planned in Washington, D.C., after the city council approved a bill requiring large retailers to pay "a living wage of $12.50 an hour," as NPR's Allison Keyes reported on All Things Considered in July.

The passage of that bill, which came despite threats from Wal-Mart, has left some observers wondering whether Mayor Vincent Gray will veto the measure. In 2006, a similar bill was vetoed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

In Chicago, reviews of how things went after that veto have been mixed. But city Alderman Howard Brookins told Allison that Wal-Mart's arrival brought new development and jobs to his south side ward.

"It is attracting other businesses like Lowe's and Pot Belly and Game Stop," he said. "Bank of America and Chase Bank are coming."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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  • President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963 in an effort to abolish wage discrimination based on gender. Half a century later, the Obama administration is pushing Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, designed to make wage differences more transparent.
  • Wal-Mart says it will not build three of the six stores planned for Washington, D.C., after the city council passed a bill that would require the retailer to pay a wage nearly 50 percent higher than the city's minimum wage. Those three stores would be located in mostly low-income areas, with high unemployment and few places to shop. A similar situation once played out in Chicago.
  • Over the strong objections of Wal-Mart, the City Council in Washington D.C. has approved a bill that would require some large retailers to pay workers a minimum of $12.50 an hour. The city's minimum wage is $8.25. Wal-Mart has threatened to scrap plans to open three stores in the city if the measure is signed by the mayor and becomes law.