Washington's city council voted Tuesday to increase the District's minimum wage by 40 Percent to $11.50 an hour, up from its current rate of $8.25 an hour.
The bill will now head to the desk of Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray.
Gray has in the past said he disagrees with efforts to increase the minimum wage exponentially. However, the fact that he has said he supports increasing the rate to at least $10 an hour and the likelihood a united city council will overrule any veto from his desk makes it likely Gray will sign off on the law.
The council’s vote comes after months of lobbying by organized labor to have the city block Walmart from opening stores in the District.
Groups, including the Service Employees International Union-backed “OUR DC,” pushed to have the city council pass a so-called “living wage” that would have forced big box retailers operating in spaces of 75,000 feet or more to pay their employees at least $12.50 an hour. The effort would have only affected retailers like Walmart while smaller businesses would have been exempt.
Walmart responded by threatening to abandon its plans to open stores in the District. Fearing what a loss of promised jobs and revenues would look like, Mayor Gray vetoed the “living wage” law in September.
However, in order to keep Walmart critics and union supporters happy, D.C. officials said they would support an across the board increase in the District’s minimum wage rate -- which is precisely what the council passed on Tuesday.
The council is united against Gray, according to a Washington Examiner report, meaning any pushback from his office will most likely be “moot.”
The proposed wage increase will be phased in over a two-year period, the report adds.
Unlike the “living wage” law proposed earlier, Walmart barely weighed in on the council’s latest effort to increase the District's minimum wage. The retailer said its opposition to the "living wage" law was due to the discriminatory nature of bill (remember, smaller retailers would have been exempt from the the wage hikes).
“Ironically, the new increase will likely benefit the retailer since its D.C. competitors may not be as able to pay the higher wage,” the Washington Examiner notes.
As of October 2013, the unemployment rate in Washington, D.C., was 8.3 percent.
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