When the minimum wage for experienced employes of barber shops and beauty salons in the District goes to $3.75 an hour on Monday, the employes will have the highest government-set minimum pay of any group of wage earners in the nation.
But the $3.75 figure approved recently by the D.C. Wage-Hour Board is 27 cents less than the $4.02 that had been recommended earlier by a special fact-finding panel.
At the urging of wage board, chairman Paula L. Jewell, the labor member of the panel, Joseph A. Beavers, and the employer member, David W. Wilmot, agreed to the compromise figure.
Beavers said he regarded even the $4.02 figure as too low for any worker in high-cost Washington, while Wilmot sought to apply the federal minimum wage of $3.10 to the barber and beautician workers, on the grounds that many employers could not afford to pay more.
Richard Seidman, executive secretary to the board, estimated that the new minimum will apply directly to about 400 of the 1,400 people employed in the affected industries. The minimum also applies to workers in health spas and reducing salons.
In general, those who earn the minimum are less skilled workers, such as janitors, shampooers and receptionists. The median wage for beauty culture workers in the metropolitian region is $4.40 an hour.
The Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade, which spearheaded opposition to the proposed wage floor, said the increase would have a "ripple" effect, forcing pay raises for some higher-paid workers as well as workers in other industries.
The board in the past has fought increases in the minimum wage, contending that it inhibits the hiring of low-skilled beginners.
To counter any such result, the board agreed to permit apprentices and beginners to be paid the federal minimum wage of $3.10 for the first six months on the job. The board also voted to permit employers to count up to 25 cents per hour of the tips earned by barbers and beauticians as part of the $3.75 minimum.
The $3.75 figure is the highest government-set wage floor for any group of workers in the country. Alaska has a state minimum wage of $3.60 an hour. New York has a state minimum of $3.45 for beauty culture workers. The District minimum for manufacturing workers and domestics is $3.50.
Unlike the congressionally set federal minimum wage, which establishes a single nationwide floor for covered workers, the D.C. minimum is applied to workers in nine different industrial groups. The D.C. figures are set by the wage board for indefinite periods.
Often, as in the case of the barber-beauty workers, the federal minimum wage overtakes the District-set wage, and applies to them.
The last time the board adopted a minimum wage for barber and beauty shop workers was in 1973. Since then, the consumer price index for the city has risen by 64 percent.
Owners of barber and beauty shops who must pay the higher wages may also be affected by another proposal made last week by Mayor Marion Barry.
As part of his program to eliminate the city's projected deficit for this fisical year, Barry proposed that a 5 percent sales tax be imposed on the price of services provided by haircutters and stylists. The tax would also be applied to services provided by professionals, such as architects and accountants.
This would add 25 cents to the cost of $5 men's haircut and $3.75 to the cost of a $75 cornrow styling done in a beauty shop.
Joe Romano, who has been cutting men's hair in Washington for 20 years and now operates a shop in the National Press Building, said he was distressed by the tax proposal.
"If Maryland and Virginia puts on the same tax, maybe we won't lose customers," Romano said. "When we have to go up a quarter, we will lose a customer."