D.C. Council committee advances significant minimum wage hike

November 25, 2013

A supermajority of D.C. Council members on Monday said they would support a bill to boost the city’s minimum wage by 40 percent over three years, after a compromise plan on tipped workers cleared a key committee hurdle.

Under the plan, restaurants and bars could continue to pay waiters, waitresses and bartenders just $2.77 an hour, as long as owners certify that with tips each employee’s total wages meets or exceeds the city’s new hourly minimum.

The hourly rate would change significantly under the legislation in each of the next three years. It would first jump to $9.50 in July, from the current rate of $8.25. It would then bump up another dollar each July until 2016, when it would reach $11.50. After that, it would be tied to the consumer price index, probably rising a few pennies each year.

The plan passed the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs unanimously after supporters rejected amendments to make restaurants and bar owners pay a higher base rate. Under a companion measure that also passed, however, tipped workers in the city would, for the first time, be guaranteed five accrued sick days each year.

The city’s minimum-wage plan is almost identical to one being supported in neighboring jurisdictions in Maryland. The county executive in Montgomery County said he would back a council plan this year for $11.50 an hour, and leaders of the County Council in Prince George’s County have expressed confidence they can pass an equal rate, although they recently delayed a vote to see whether the measure would first advance in Montgomery.

 

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In the District, however, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) has opposed the $11.50 hourly rate, as well as the plan to index it to inflation. He has said the council has no economic basis for its proposal, which would lift the minimum in the District alongside, and perhaps above, that in San Francisco, which now has an hourly rate of $10.55 that is indexed to regional inflation.

On Friday, Gray proposed a top rate of $10, mirroring a more modest proposal advanced by the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. Gray’s plan also omitted indexing; the mayor said the consequences of that have not been studied.

Gray’s resistance, however, may be for naught. After failing to override Gray’s veto of a bill to require Wal-Mart to pay workers a higher wage this fall, the committee chairman, Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large), said he was intent on securing a “veto-proof” majority of nine council members.

In addition to the six who voted for the measure Monday, council members Anita Bonds (D-At Large), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said Monday that they would support the plan.

The committee members who voted for the plan were council members Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), David Grosso (I-At Large), and Orange. Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) is not a voting member of the committee, but he sat in and said he strongly supported the plan.

The measure goes to the full council on Dec. 3.

Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.

Aaron Davis covers D.C. government and politics for The Post and wants to hear your story about how D.C. works — or how it doesn’t.
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