District of Columbia to vote on $15/hour minimum wage

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 07, 2016 6:14 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The District of Columbia's city council is set to vote on Tuesday on a $15-an-hour minimum wage, a rate adopted by a growing number of U.S. cities and states seeking to battle income inequality.

The 13-member council will hold a first vote on a measure to boost the minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2020. The current base wage is $10.50, and will go up by $1 on July 1 under existing law.

If the measure becomes law, the U.S. capital will join California and New York in making $15 the hourly minimum. At least eight cities, including Seattle, have also approved the $15 base.

The measure is backed by Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser, and supporters say it will help trim the gap between rich and poor and keep residents from being pushed out because of rising living costs.

Washington's robust economy, rising number of businesses and growing population mean it can support a higher minimum wage, supporters of the measure say. The federal minimum is $7.25 an hour.

The $15 minimum is estimated to raise wages for 114,000 workers, or about 14 percent of the District of Columbia's workforce, according to an analysis for the council by the non-profit Economic Policy Institute.

The higher pay proposal is supported by unions but has drawn opposition from the District's Chamber of Commerce. It says the District should not raise wages until neighboring suburbs do, and that the higher pay would drive up the cost of living.

The District of Columbia restaurant industry, which employs about 61,000 people, also opposes it. Restaurant owners and the local restaurant association testified before the council that higher costs would lead to layoffs and cut into already thin margins.

Under the measure, the guaranteed minimum for workers who get tips, like waiters and bartenders, would be $5.55 an hour by 2020, up from the current $2.77.

Unions have been pushing for a ballot initiative that would set the $15 minimum for all workers, including those who get tips.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Peter Cooney)