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Can $15 Hourly Wage Stop Displacement?D.C. Mayor Bowser Wants Increase Over 4 Years

During D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s 2016 State of the District Address, she made headlines when she called for the minimum wage to be $15 by 2020.

She acknowledged that with the rising cost of living the hourly minimum wage of $11.50 cannot sustain residents on March 22 at Arena Stage in Southeast.

“With grocery bills, childcare and eldercare, transportation cost and the other expenses on the rise an hourly minimum wage of eleven dollars and fifty cents will only stretch so far,” Bowser said.

“Low wages create an invisible ceiling that prevents working families from truly getting a fair shot.”

Bowser asserted that a report issued last month showed that the lowest-income residents in D.C. are overwhelmingly people of color and that nearly half of those earners were born in Washington, D.C.

“In a city as prosperous as ours, we can level the playing field and we can make sure our residents are paid a good wage, so fewer families are forced to leave,” she said. “When the council returns from its break early next month, I will send legislation to the council to increase our minimum wage to fifteen dollars by 2020!”

Bowser said the District will answer President Obama’s call to raise the minimum wage.

“Cities and states across the country are proving that decent wages and strong business climates are not mutually exclusive. We are Washington, D.C., and we can do it, too,” she said.

She also claims that she will assemble a task force of leaders, workers, organized labor and businesses with a simple task to make sure they are creating a worker and business friendly environment to maintain regional competitiveness.

They will only have six months to do so.

“From paid family leave, to identifying new ways to help our residents start small businesses – the task force will present a report that recommends what we can do to stay competitive and continue to prosper,” Bowser said.

Executive Director Delvone Michael of DC Working Families asserts that the hard work of his organization has finally paid off.

“I’m glad to see that after months of pressure from our coalition, the mayor has come to see that the struggle of D.C. workers is very real,” Michael said. “D.C. is the greatest city in the world and the capital of our nation – it should never be the capital of inequality.” 

“We are more than happy to work with the mayor and the council to make $15 for D.C. a reality,” he said. “However, the efforts to advance our ballot measure will continue until the mayor and the council have made good on her promise.”

The “Fight for $15” has made headlines nationally as fast food and service workers around the country striked and protested for what they deem a living wage.

Cities like Seattle and San Francisco have passed laws that will gradually increase the minimum wage over the next few years. Mayor Bowser wants the District to join in.

“I welcome the council to join us in that deliberation. But the raise cannot wait, and I ask the council for swift consideration in our fight to make sure that more families, more workers, can earn a decent wage, so they can afford that housing we are creating,” Bowser said.

“So that when their time on TANF [Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families] has ended, they can afford to stay in the District of Columbia.”

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