D.C. lawmakers approve $15 minimum wage, joining N.Y., Calif.

SEIU/Flickr

From The Washington Post:

by Aaron C. Davis

The D.C. Council unanimously agreed to boost the city’s hourly minimum wage to $15 on Tuesday, and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser pledged to sign the measure into law, lifting pay for low-income workers to among the highest in the country within four years.

The developments marked a victory for unions, which targeted the nation’s capital for a symbolic win in the “Fight for $15” campaign in a presidential election year.

Polls find strong support for a $15 wage floor as many Americans have become frustrated by the loss of well-paying manufacturing jobs and the growth of low-paying retail and service jobs.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has tapped into that frustration in his presidential bid, calling for a federal $15 minimum, while Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has said she would support a $15 minimum wage if it is implemented gradually. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has alternatively said both that wages are too high and that “people have to get more.”

The District’s move is the latest in a series of unexpected and rapid-fire victories for the $15-minimum-wage movement. What began as an audacious push by fast-food workers just a few years ago is evolving into a new labor standard, with state lawmakers in California and New York agreeing to implement a $15 minimum wage by 2022 and legislatures in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey weighing similar measures.

Supporters, mostly Democrats, say a $15 floor is needed to help close the country’s growing income gap, especially in big cities. The District has the greatest income disparity between top earners and those on the lowest rungs compared with any of the 50 states, according to recent federal data analyzed by the city.

“When I see how much it costs to live in Washington, D.C. — and that cost is only going up — we know that it takes more money for every household to be able to afford to live,” Bowser (D) said on Tuesday, flanked by labor leaders and some business groups that begrudgingly said they would accept it. “There are families working day in and day out, sometimes two or three jobs but barely making ends meet.”

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