By Bryce Covert
On Tuesday, the Washington, D.C. Council unanimously voted to raise the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour and to expand its current paid sick leave policy to cover tipped workers, who were originally left out.
Both bills need a final vote before they head to Mayor Vince Gray (D) for his signature. As the Washington City Paper explains, “the unanimous vote [for the minimum wage] all but guarantees that it could survive any veto attempt by Mayor Vince Gray,” who has said he supports a raise to $10 an hour. It’s currently $8.25. Under the Council’s proposal, the wage would eventually hit $11.50 in 2016 and from there on would be tied to inflation, automatically rising. Only 11 states automatically increase the minimum wage as the cost of living rises, and the federal wage isn’t tied to inflation and has been stuck at $7.25 for four years. If it had kept up with inflation since the 1960s, it would be over $10 an hour.
The council’s vote to expand the paid sick days policy means that the 80 percent of the city’s restaurant workers who previously didn’t have access to time off when they or their loved ones fell ill will now be covered. It has also been estimated to bring a net $2 million in savings to the area’s businesses, or $1.85 per worker per week, in reduced turnover, fewer illnesses at work, and higher productivity. Contrary to opponents who argue that the city’s paid sick days law would force businesses to move elsewhere, an audit of the current iteration found that it hasn’t encouraged them to relocate nor has it discouraged new businesses from setting up shop.