Washington DC Approves $15 Minimum Hourly Wage

Paul Ausick

The Washington, D.C., city council on Tuesday approved unanimously a measure to raise the city’s minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2020. The city joins with California, New York and other state and local governments that have approved a similar hike.

At the same time, the city council agreed to raise hourly wages for tipped workers from the current level of $2.77 to $5.00 over the same period. If tips do not raise tipped workers’ pay to the level of the minimum wage, employers will be responsible for making up the difference.

Once the $15 level has been reached, raises will be linked to inflation.

Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, said:

The D.C. Council vote shows the unstoppable momentum of the $15 minimum wage and will improve the lives of thousands of workers.  But the Council’s refusal to meaningfully raise the tipped wage leaves behind 29,000 restaurant, nail salon, car wash and other tipped workers.  With San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle having raised the tipped wage to $15, and New York raising it to $10, it is disappointing that city leadership as progressive and diverse as D.C.’s would not do more.

Close to 70 percent of tipped employees in D.C. are people of color, and data shows these workers experience poverty at nearly twice the rate of the overall workforce. Women will also be disproportionately affected, as female tipped workers are twice as likely to live in poverty as men in tipped occupations, and they are nearly three times more likely to live in poverty than the overall workforce. And disparities in the restaurant sector are likely to widen: more than one in four female servers and bartenders live in poverty, compared to a little more than one in ten of their male counterparts.

Washington’s minimum wage is set to rise from $10.50 to $11.50 in July. The new measure increases the wage by about 70 cents per year until it reaches $15 in 2020.

A total of 29 states and the District of Columbia have raised the minimum wage above the $7.25 federal minimum.