$15 Minimum Wage May Be Coming To DC In 2016

Josh Fatzick | Reporter

The movement to raise the minimum wage in Washington, D.C. came one step closer to becoming a reality Wednesday with the D.C. Board of Election’s decision to approve a ballot measure.

On Wednesday, the board released a ruling that will allow advocates in the city to place an initiative on the 2016 ballot to let city residents vote on upping the minimum wage to $15 per hour, The Washington Post reports.

If the activists supporting the initiative can collect around 25,000 signatures — or 5 percent of the D.C. population — on a petition before November 2016, the city’s residents will vote whether they want the higher minimum wage.

The move comes just weeks after the city raised its minimum wage to $10.50, higher than any state in the nation. The minimum-wage hike came as part of a three-year initiative approved by the D.C. council in 2013 that will see it climb again in 2016 to $11.50.

Under the new ballot initiative, dubbed the “Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2016,” the city’s minimum wage would rise to $12.50 in 2017, and then creep up each year until it reached $15 in 2020.

Upon reaching $15 in 2020, the minimum wage would then increase annually to match the rising cost of living in the city.

At a hearing earlier this month, pro-business groups said raising the minimum wage would crush small businesses in the city, which make up the vast majority of employers.

“No small business owner, which many in the food service industry are, can continue to operate under those conditions,” said Harry Wingo, president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. “Thus many more will close as we have seen in other jurisdictions that have adopted this requirement.”

Members of the Board of Elections, though, didn’t think that was sufficient to keep the measure off of the ballot.

“While the Board recognizes and can appreciate the concerns of small business owners who bemoan the prospects of increased operating costs, the Board is not authorized to reject initiatives due to financial hardships on private business owners. Speculative fiscal and economic impacts of a higher minimum wage also cannot be used as a justification to reject an initiative,” Chairwoman Deborah Nichols wrote in the ruling.

The district would follow a number of major cities raising their minimum wage laws.

On Wednesday, the New York Wage Board voted to raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers in New York City to $15 an hour by the end of 2018, and for the rest of the state by 2021.

Seattle enacted a similar minimum wage law that will raise it to $15 an hour by 2018 and Los Angeles will raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2020.

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