Only four weeks after Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed a bill that would have hiked the minimum wage for large retailers in D.C. to $12.50 an hour, mayoral candidate and Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) has proposed a bill that would raise the minimum wage of all D.C. workers to $10.25.
The Living Wage for All of D.C. plan, if enacted, would make Washington, D.C., the second part of the country, after some municipalities in California, with a minimum wage above $10. Specifically, the bill would raise the minimum wage from its current $8.25 to $10.25 over the next two years, after which it would be tied to changes in the cost of living in the District.
Gray floated the idea of an unspecified minimum-wage hike in the letter accompanying his veto of the Large Retailer Accountability Act, which would have forced large D.C. retailers like Wal-Mart to pay workers at least $12.50 per hour in combined wages and benefits. Nine councilmembers are co-sponsoring Wells’ bill, according to The Washington Post.
Wells and Gray disagreed with the LRAA primarily because it targeted certain businesses while ignoring most D.C. workers.
According to WJLA, 14 notable District businesses have announced their support for Wells’ bills and have committed to raising employee wages, including D.C. Brau Brewing Company, BicycleSpace, Inspire BBQ, The Pug, Union Kitchen, Blind Dog Cafe, Toscana Cafe, Al Tiramisu, Bike Rack, Big Bear, Chocolate City Brewing, Right Proper Brewing, the Law Office of C. Thomas Chartered and 3 Stars Brewing.
“[D.C.] is so far behind every year, and we have to do something about it,” Wells said on Wednesday during a press conference held at D.C. Brau, located at 3178 Bladensburg Road NE.
Wells’ alternative would avoid targeting big businesses and facilitate the transition for employers. The bill would raise the employee tax credit for companies with fewer than 150 employees, and it would also lower the commercial property tax rate from $1.50 to $1.65 on the first $3 million of a property’s value. In addition, to alleviate the burden from the lowest income bracket, Wells’ bill would also increase the standard deduction for personal income taxes.
“We greatly appreciate Councilmember Wells’ introduction of the Living Wage for All Act,” D.C. Jobs Council Executive Director Marina Streznewski said during Wednesday’s press conference. “The bill helps open a broad discussion of a much-needed increase to the minimum wage, while also speaking to the need for District residents, especially at lower income levels, to keep more of the money they earn.”
Ali Plutnicki (MSB ’17), who works at Sprinkles Cupcakes for $10 an hour, said that the bill would help fellow employees better support themselves financially.
“For me, as a student, I think that $10 an hour is fine because I’m still dependent on my parents, but I don’t think it’s something I’d be able to live off of myself,” Plutnicki said.
Councilmember Vincent Orange (D-Ward 5), who is chair of the Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee, recently announced that the committee would hold a hearing regarding Wells’ bill on Oct. 28, along with four other bills about minimum wage that have been introduced by other councilmembers.