The District of Columbia Faces Two Efforts to Raise the Minimum Wage
In April of 2015, the DC Working Families Party, a national progressive advocacy group, filed a motion with the DC Board of Election and Ethics (DCBOEE) through its local affiliate to place an initiative on the November 2016 ballot to raise the minimum wage. Staring on July 1, 2017, the initiative (if passed) would raise the minimum wage by $.75 a year each July until it reaches $15 in 2020. Staring on July 1, 2021 the wage would be increased yearly based on the Consumer Price Index for the District of Columbia.

While the proposed increase would impact all private employers in the District, it would exclude the District government, government contractors and companies working on projects which are receiving government assistance. (Currently, district law prohibits citizens from passing any ballot initiative that requires the Council to appropriate funds.)

In response, the business community lead by a former head of the DC Chamber of Commerce organized a calculated effort to fight the initiative. The group coordinated an effort to offer testimony to DCBOEE, which outlined how the bill would violate the DC Municipal Code. Once this effort failed, the group proceeded to file a lawsuit in District Court to prevent the initiative from moving forward. Originally, the judge found in favor of the business community and the initiative halted. Then, in early April 2016, the judge reversed his decision and allowed the initiative to move forward. Presently, DC Working Families Party is working to collect more than 23,000 signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.

If DC Working Families Party successfully obtains the signatures required to place the initiative on the ballot, the initiative would proceed as part of the November 2016 election. If the measure is approved, it would then go before the DC City Council, based on District law. The Council would have the option to either (a) approve the ballot measure or (b) vote it down.

View DC Minimum Wage Legislation here

Mayor Muriel Bowser Introduces $15 an hour Minimum Wage Proposal

On Tuesday, April 19th Mayor Muriel Bowser transmitted to the DC City Council via the Office of the Secretary the “Fair Shot Minimum Wage Amendment Act of 2016”. The legislation, as introduced, would raise the District’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2020. The effort follows the same schedule as the proposed ballot initiative and also adjusts via the Consumer Price Index in the years succeeding 2020.

Unlike the ballot initiative, the Mayor’s legislation applies to all individuals working in the District of Columbia (including the DC government, government contractors and those working on projects receiving government assistance). Furthermore, the bill mandates that as of 2020 the District’s Living Wage can never fall below the minimum wage. (Under current law, government contractors and those working on projects receiving government assistance are required to pay the minimum wage to all employees.)

The proposed legislation is of special concern to the construction industry, since under current practice, companies who have an apprenticeship program in the District are expected to pay their apprentices 50% of the journeyman rate for the first 1000 hours. If this rate is below the minimum wage, companies will be required to adjust their apprenticeship agreements and pay at a higher wage. Furthermore, companies will also be required to amend their agreement on a yearly basis to reflect the current minimum wage.

Presently, the Mayor’s bill is still awaiting committee assignment by the Council Chair. The bill has not been assigned to a committee; therefore, a hearing for the bill has not been scheduled.

ABC of Metro Washington will continue to closely monitor both the ballot initiative and legislation and will provide an update as more information becomes available.

View Bill 12-16, Human Rights and Civil Liberties - County Minimum Wage - Annual Adjustment