Challenges Ahead For Regional Plan To Raise Minimum Wage

Friday, December 6, 2013

Challenges Ahead For Regional Plan To Raise Minimum Wage(Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO)

A regional plan to raise the minimum wage in the metro Washington area may hit an unexpected roadblock: the Maryland legislature. That’s because Free State lawmakers are considering a two-part minimum wage law, according to Bob Ross, president of the Prince George’s County NAACP.  One section of the bill would raise Maryland’s minimum from $7.25 to $10.10 – less than the $11.50 approved in Montgomery, Prince George’s and DC – and the other section would revoke minimum wage hikes like those just approved in MontCo, PG and DC. Meanwhile, in DC, Mayor Vincent Gray, who in early December announced he’s running for re-election, says he prefers a $10 minimum wage. The DC City Council’s $11.50 minimum wage bill passed Tuesday with a veto-proof 13-0 preliminary vote, with a final vote scheduled for December 17. 

Across the river, D.C.’s Virginia suburbs legally can’t raise their minimum wages. The D.C. regional moves are part of a nationwide campaign to raise the minimum wage state by state, since the gridlocked U.S. Congress won’t raise the federal minimum, stuck at $7.25 hourly since the GOP George W. Bush administration.  Earlier in 2013, the GOP-run U.S. House, on a party-line vote, rejected a hike to $10.50 hourly.

The DC wage hike is only the first step, Metro Washington Labor Council president Jos Williams told a rally of minimum wage workers on Tuesday. “They’ve congratulated themselves on the $11.50, which will take place in 2016,” Williams said.  “What does that mean?  You have to wait until 2016 to make a lousy $24,000 a year? Today, we talk a minimum wage.  Tomorrow, we demand a living wage,” he declared. And to ensure that is approved, Williams added the Metro D.C. labor council will join in circulating petitions to put a living wage ordinance on next November’s ballot. 

“While it’s good news that the City Council has acted to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 per hour, it’s indefensible to leave the minimum wage for tipped workers frozen at just $2.77 per hour,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP). Despite the high cost of living in the District, the base wage for tipped workers – including restaurant servers and bartenders, as well as parking lot attendants, nail salon workers, and luggage porters – ranks in the bottom half of all states in the country, according to NELP.  
- Includes reporting by Mark Gruenberg, PAI


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