Both business and labor leaders criticized yesterday the D.C. Wage-Hour Board's decision to raise to $3.90 an hour the minimum wage for an estimated 100,000 secretaries, typists and other clerical and semitechnical workers employed in Washington.
Labor groups said that the action, which gives the District the highest minimum wage for clerical employes in the nation, did not go far enough, while business leaders said the increase puts the District at a competitive disadvantage with other jurisdictions.
"That minimum is not sufficient to sustain an individual," said L.J. Sheridan, president of Local 2 of the Office & Professional Employees Union. "The action taken is a move in the right direction, but it does not go far enough."
The Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, said the 55-cent increase, from $3.35 to $3.90, was a "poor decision" and was well under the $4.45 an hour minimum the labor council supported.
Council President Joslyn Williams said he was also "very disappointed" the board did not agree to speed up reviews of the mininum wage, which now occur every three to five years. The last time the clerical rate was changed was in 1977. "People will be stuck at $3.90 for the next three to four years," Williams said.
Business officials said the increase was too high and put Washington at a disadvantage compared to the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, which generally follow the federal minimum wage of $3.35 an hour.
Federal and District government employes are exempted from minimum wage laws.
"Our concern is a healthful economy for the District of Columbia," said Patricia Lohr, vice president for personnel for NS&T Bank and a member of a citizens' committee that advised the Wage-Hour Board. Business officials said they were also concerned that the increase would be a further incentive for D.C. companies to move to the suburbs.
City officials said the vast majority of the District's 100,000 clerical and semitechncial workers are already making well above the new $3.90-an-hour minimum. The change, which takes effect June 4, will increase salaries for only about 15,000 employes, officials said.
However, business officials are concerned that the increase could prompt experienced workers already above the new minimum to ask for larger wage increases.
The three members of the Wage-Hour Board, Chairwoman Paula L. Jewell, Joseph A. Beavers of Local 25 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union and David W. Wilmot, a lawyer, unanimously approved the change Monday.
The board's nine-member advisory committee, splitting along business-labor lines, had recommended by a 5-to-4 vote adoption of a minimum of $4.45 an hour, according to its chairwoman, Eleanor Jenkins Lauderdale.