The DC Council unanimously approved raising the District's minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2016, setting up the District to have the highest minimum hourly wage in the country. The bill calls for three gradual increases, starting with a jump from the current level of $8.25 to $9.50 an hour by next July 1, followed by one-dollar hikes the following two years.
The bill comes a few months after Mayor Vince Gray vetoed legislation that would have forced large retailers like Walmart to pay at least $12.50 an hour while leaving smaller businesses unaffected. Gray, after much hedging, said he would have preferred to raise DC's minimum wage to $10, but he does not plan to veto this bill, a spokesman says.
Some activists had pushed for an increase in the minimum wage paid to tipped restaurant workers, but lobbying from the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington kept that out of the final bill. Still, today's vote does include a partial victory for restaurant workers in requiring their employers to give them paid sick leave.
The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. The District bill approved today comes in conjunction with similar legislation approved by Montgomery and Prince George's counties, which recently adopted plans to raise their minimum wages to $11.50 by 2017.