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DC Council Moves to Raise Minimum Wage to $11.50 an Hour

Under a new bill, DC would have one of the highest minimum wages in the country, though some would like to see it go even higher.

Months after it failed to force Walmart and other big-box retailers to pay premium starting wages, the DC Council plans to implement a citywide minimum wage hike to $11.50 an hour, a raise of more than $3 that would give the District one of the highest minimum wages in the country.

Council member Vincent Orange said yesterday he will combine four competing bills into a final version he plans to introduce next Monday, with votes scheduled for as soon as mid-December.

The District’s current minimum wage is $8.25 an hour, just a dollar more than the federal standard. Recently, though, DC lawmakers and their counterparts in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have discussed creating a multi-jurisdictional standard, agreeing on $11.50 an hour.

Orange’s bill would bring DC’s minimum wage up to $11.50 in three increments, increasing $1.25 to $9.50 next July 1 and by one dollar a year over the following two years, reaching $11.50 by July 1, 2016. That would give DC a minimum wage higher than any state and all but a few cities. San Francisco’s is currently set at $10.76 per hour and rises with inflation. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn recently proposed raising his city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Some activists would like to see the DC Council push the minimum wage to $12.50, the same rate that would have been implemented under the Large Retailer Accountability Act, a bill earlier this year aimed at getting Walmart—which is opening its first DC stores on December 4—to pay a much higher starting wage. A group called DC Working Families, made up of many of the same people who pushed for the large retailer bill, is demonstrating outside the Wilson Building today in support of putting a $12.50 minimum wage on the District’s 2014 ballot.

“The nation’s capital should not also be the capital of inequality,” the group’s director, Delvone Michaels, said. “To reverse this trend requires bold measures to raise wages as a first step in creating an economy that works for all of us.”

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