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DC Judge Overturns Own Opposition To $15 Minimum Wage

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A District of Columbia superior court judge overturned his own ruling Monday, allowing advocates to get the $15 minimum wage on the November ballot.

Superior Court Judge Maurice Ross initially ruled Jan. 29 the ballot initiative be suspended. He overturned his decision Monday by deciding instead to let the $15 minimum wage be included on the ballot, reports the local NBC affiliate. Supporters will still need to get enough signatures and the increase approved by voters, but the decision is a huge step forward for advocates.

“We have plenty of time to get the signatures, it’s not a problem,” DC Working Families Executive Director Delvone Michael said to DCist. “We have one of the best canvassers on the East Coast.”

Michael also co-chairs the DC for $15 campaign. Former D.C. Chamber of Commerce President Harry Wingo first took issue with the initiative by filing a lawsuit against it. Ross originally ruled that the proposal itself was fine but took issue with D.C. Board of Elections members who were serving past their appointed terms when they approved the proposal, The Washington Post reported at the time.

Those pushing the ballot initiative have just a few months to collect 20,000 signatures because of the delay. Supporters are optimistic they will get the proposal on the ballot, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Mayor Muriel Bowser has also announced plans to introduce similar legislation to the city council.

Bowser has taken issue with some aspects of the ballot proposal currently being pushed by supporters. One provision in the law, for example, excludes city government employees from receiving the increase. The city is currently on a three-year initiative to gradually increase the minimum wage to $11.50 by the the later part of 2016.

Studies have shown that raising the minimum wage could have both negative and positive outcomes. For instance, businesses could struggle to overcome the added cost of labor and thus be forced to cutback on their workforce or increase prices. Nevertheless, California and New York signed laws Monday marking the first time the increase has been passed on the state-level.

The $15 minimum wage previously had only been passed on the city-level, starting with Seattle in June 2014. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found both positive and negative results from increasing the minimum wage. It found any increase in the minimum wage will likely result in at least some job loss. While the University of California, Berkeley found in a recent study that having less people in poverty outweighs the potential job loss.

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