In a widely expected move, the DC Council voted unanimously today to raise the city's minimum wage to $11.50 an hour, up from its current rate of $8.25. The bill now goes to Mayor Vincent Gray, who has opposed an increase that high but would likely see any veto overridden by the Council.
The increase is a culmination of several months of activism by liberal groups and labor unions, initially sparked by the announcement that Walmart had finalized plans to build six locations in the city. Groups like OUR DC, which is backed by the Service Employees International Union, pushed back against the nonunion retailer's arrival.
Councilmembers responded by passing the Large Retailer Accountability Act, a bill that would have required big box stores to abide by a $12.50 minimum wage. Only a handful of business, like Walmart and Macy's, would have been affected. All others would have been free to pay the $8.25 minimum wage.
Walmart lobbied heavily against the bill, threatening to pull out altogether if it passed. Mayor Gray, fearing the economic impact, vetoed the bill in September but, to placate critics, said he would be open to an across-the-board minimum wage increase, opening the door to the bill that passed today.
Gray initially opposed this bill as well, calling instead for a hike to $10. But in the face of a united Council, his opposition is moot. The hike would be phased in over two years.
Notably, Walmart did not oppose or otherwise weigh in on the current bill. It had earlier said its opposition to the LRAA was based on the fact that it was "discriminatory" and singled them out. Ironically, the new increase will likely benefit the retailer since its D.C. competitors may not be as able to pay the higher wage.
For more on the issue, see my Dec. 4 column "How D.C.'s effort to raise the minimum wage helps Walmart." Or you can read about how Walmart was compared to Hitler at one protest in front of the Council.