Calls on Mayor Gray to Sign Into Law; Promises to Continue Fight for Tipped Minimum Wage Increase

Washington – A coalition of local workers, business owners, and community, research, labor and faith organizations from across the District applauded D.C. City Council passage of a bill that raises DC’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2016 and ties increases after that to the cost of living and a bill that closes loopholes in the current earned sick leave bill so that restaurant workers are included and all workers can use accrued sick leave after 90 days on the job.

“To win, you have to fight,” said D.C. restaurant worker Alex Garcia. “D.C. workers are achieving great changes that will benefit us and our entire city, and one of them is passage of the minimum wage increase and paid sick days by the D.C. council. It’s been great to have the support of these coalitions in our fight, and I also want to thank the council members who have come to our side. The struggle doesn’t end here; we will keep pressuring so that these benefits can be extended to tipped workers too. These laws will improve our economy, ensure that wages for many D.C. workers keep up with increased cost of living, and keep workers like me from having to choose between our health and our job.”

The Respect DC and Paid Sick Days for All coalitions also renewed their determination to raise the tipped minimum wage, so restaurant workers and other tipped workers make a living wage. Additional quotes from coalition members can be found at the end of this release.

These bills will allow more DC residents to meet basic needs, address rising inequality in our city, and help boost our local economy. When the District’s working families earn enough money to cover the basics, it helps the whole DC economy. Right now, a mom or dad working full-time at a minimum wage job in the District earns $17,160 a year—which is below poverty for a family of three. Making such low wages, combined with the risk of losing wages or even their job when they’re sick means many have to rely on public assistance to keep their families afloat.

A 2011 survey of more than 500 D.C. restaurant workers revealed that nearly 80 percent had no paid sick days, and 59 percent reported going to work sick. This can have serious consequences for the health of these workers, their families, businesses, and the public. The Center for Disease Control found that nationally more than 10 million cases of foodborne illness each year are caused by sick restaurant workers contaminating food while they are at work.

Small business owners cite lack of sales as the greatest obstacle to recovery, and consumer spending accounts for nearly 70 percent of our national economy. More money in the hands of consumers will help get our economy back on track and will help our local businesses prosper.

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A Growing Coalition:

This joint coalition is made up of the Paid Sick Days for All Coalition and the Respect DC Coalition. The Paid Sick Days for All Coalition is supported by Jews United for JusticeDC Employment Justice CenterRestaurant Opportunities Center of Washington DCAcademy of HopeAFSCME Council 26Amalgamated BankAsian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA)Bread for the CityBread for the City Medical ClinicBright Start Childcare and PreschoolBusboys and PoetsCapital Area Food Bank,CLASPCommunity IT InnovatorsDC Coalition Against Domestic ViolenceDC For DemocracyDC Fiscal Policy InstituteDC Jobs CouncilDC Jobs with JusticeDC Primary Care AssociationDC SafeEatonvilleEconomic Policy InstituteFair Budget Coalition,Family and Medical Counseling Serivce, Inc. (FMCS)Family Values at WorkFlavaInspire BBQJames and Hoffman, P.C.La Clinica Del PuebloLabor Project for Working FamiliesMadhatter RestaurantMany Languages One VoiceMary’s Center,Metropolitan Washington Labor CouncilMiriam’s KitchenMomsRisingNational Association of School NursesNational Consumers LeageNational Day Laborer Organizing NetworkNational Nurses UnitedNational Organization for Women – DC ChapterNational Partnership for Women and FamiliesOne DCOperation EateryOUR DCPlanned Parenthood of Metropolitan WashingtonPleasant PopsPolitics and ProsePositive ForcePublic CitizenSEIU 1199SEIU 32BJSo Others Might EatThe New York Hotel Trades CouncilThe Women’s CollectiveThe Wydown Coffee BarUFCW Local 400Unite Here! Local 23Unite Here! Local 25Washington Cable SystemsWashington Legal Clinic for the HomelessWe Are Family DCWOW (Wider Opportunities for Women)

The Respect DC Coalition is supported by A. Philip Randolph InstituteAmerican Friends Service Committee-DC Peace and Economic Justice ProgramBread for the CityClean Water ActionDC Employment Justice CenterDC Environmental NetworkDC Federation of Civic AssociationsDC Jobs with JusticeDC Jobs CouncilFirst Rising Mt. Zion Baptist ChurchFlorida Avenue Baptist ChurchFood and Water WatchFoundry United Methodist ChurchGray Panthers of Metro WashingtonIsrael Baptist ChurchJews United for Justice, Living Faith Baptist Church and International Ministries, Metro Washington Labor CouncilNew Prospect Family Life CenterONE DCPennsylvania Avenue Baptist ChurchReentry Network for Returning CitizensRestaurant Opportunities Center of DCSt. Theresa of Avila Catholic ChurchUFCW Local 400Ward Four ThrivesWider Opportunities for Women


 

In a letter sent last week to Mayor Gray and DC Council Chairman Mendelson, the DC Chamber of Commerce expressed support for an increase in DC’s minimum wage and to have the wage rise with the cost of living in the future. That’s encouraging, because it shows the business community recognizes the importance of making sure workers in DC can earn a decent living.

It’s also interesting because the Chamber’s study was authored by David Neumark, whose work on the minimum wage has been called into question by mainstream economists over the past two decades. His new report acknowledges research support from another organization, the Employment Policies Institute, which is funded directly by the restaurant industry to advocate against increasing the minimum wage. Nevertheless, Neumark’s report acknowledges many ways in which a minimum wage increase would help low- and moderate-income DC residents.

A coalition of business, labor, religious, policy research and community organizations have come together to support an increase in DC’s minimum wage to $12.50 by 2016 and then indexing the wage to the cost of living, as well as increasing the tipped minimum wage to at least 70 percent of the base minimum wage. Along with these reforms, the coalition supports passage of the “Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2013,” which would improve DC’s sick leave law. We urge the DC Council and Mayor Gray to enact these moderate and reasonable approaches to making work pay for our residents.

Below, we outline areas in which there is common ground between the Chamber study and our coalition and areas in which we take issue with the Neumark study.

COMMON GROUND

Many DC workers in low-wage jobs are in poverty. Neumark points out that “a higher percentage of workers earning less than $10 per hour in DC are in poverty than among all workers (20.41 percent versus 2.77 percent).” His examination of Census data also shows that almost half of these workers are in families with a household income at less than 150 percent of poverty, which is approximately $26,000 for a family of three. Finally, Neumark found that 94 percent of workers making less than $10 an hour are 20 years of age or older. Together, these data confirm that minimum wage workers tend to be adults helping support a family, and that most low-wage workers are in low-income families.

The minimum wage should rise with the cost of living by tying it to the Consumer Price Index. Right now, DC’s minimum wage is frozen, which means that purchasing power of the wage declines each year. Neumark advocates for the minimum wage to be indexed to the CPI for several reasons. For businesses, indexing creates a steady, predictable wage increase and eliminates the economic shock that comes with sporadic bumps in the minimum wage.

 

Low-wage DC workers are more likely to be residents than high-wage DC workers. Neumark notes that four-out-of-ten DC low-wage workers live in the District. While Neumark uses that to suggest that a minimum wage increase is not well targeted on DC residents, his data show that low-wage workers in DC are more likely than high-wage workers to be DC residents. This suggests that a minimum wage increase is a good tool to help low-income DC families. Moreover, the minimum wage isn’t the only tool to address poverty and income inequality but should be viewed as a part of a tool chest, which includes the Earned Income Tax Credit, subsidized child care, food stamps, and other policies to make work pay for low-income families.

POINTS OF DISAGREEMENT

Neumark states that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage leads to a 1 to 3 percent decrease in employment among least skilled workers, but the most extensive and credible studies find no discernible impact on employment. Over the past 20 years, there has been a tremendous amount of research on the employment impact of raising the minimum wage. Most prominently, two leading “meta-studies” survey and pool the data from over four decades of recent research — and, as summarized by the Center for Economic and Policy Research in a recent review, these leading meta-studies show that the most rigorous research demonstrates that there is “little or no significant impact of minimum wage increases on employment.” Neumark provides a summary of numerous studies but fails to take into account the varying reliability of their findings. When taking statistical precision into account, the leading meta-studies find that the overwhelming evidence demonstrates that raising minimum wages does not lead to job losses. Indeed, businesses are able to pay higher wages without reducing employment due to a range of factors, including higher productivity and reductions in employee turnover that consistently result from minimum wage increases.

Neumark states that, due to the District’s small size, businesses might relocate to neighboring jurisdictions. Yet many of the businesses which pay low-wages are in the service and retail sectors which want to locate in the District to be close to customers. Even Neumark acknowledges his argument is based on thin evidence, because there is “little solid research on the effects of a higher minimum wage on business creation, destruction, or relocation decisions.” In fact, monthly surveys done by the National Federation of Independent Business consistently show that small businesses rank labor costs a low concern. They are most impacted by government red tape and other costs to their business. A widely-cited 2010 study, “Minimum Wage Effects Across State Borders,” looks at employment levels among every pair of neighboring U.S. counties that had differing minimum wage levels at any time between 1990 and 2006 – and finds that higher minimum wages did not lead business in those states to reduce their hiring or shift their hiring to neighboring counties with lower minimum wage rates.

Neumark suggests that there is limited research into the economic impacts of raising the minimum wage for tipped workers. In fact, an abundance of data exists in support of raising the base wage for tipped workers, which in DC remains stuck at just $2.77 per hour. DC falls into the bottom half of states when it comes to the minimum wage for tipped employees, such as restaurant servers, bartenders, and bussers. As a result of this low base wage, tipped workers in the District are estimated to earn a median hourly wage of only $9.31 per hour. Tipped workers have twice the poverty rate of the average worker in the U.S., and are more than three times as likely to rely on food stamps. There are seven states that have set the base wage for tipped workers equal to the value of the full minimum wage, and tipped workers in these states consistently earn higher wages without slowing job growth in the restaurant industry – indeed, according to the National Restaurant Association, a majority of these seven states are projected to have restaurant employment growth rates above the national average for the next decade.
 

The DC Council will likely consider a bill in the next few weeks that will raise DC’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2016 and index it to the cost of living thereafter. This proposal matches ones being considered by Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland. The coalition sees this as moving in the right direction, yet still advocates for the Council to approve a $12.50 wage indexed for inflation in order to raise the wages of the lowest-paid workers in the District toward a more realistic wage consistent with the cost of living. The bill should also include an increase for tipped workers and improve the city’s sick leave law by including tipped restaurant employees and allowing workers to accrue leave from the first day on the job.

A Growing Coalition:

 This newly formed joint coalition is made up of the Paid Sick Days for All Coalition and the Respect DC Coalition. The Paid Sick Days for All Coalition is supported by Jews United for JusticeDC Employment Justice CenterRestaurant Opportunities Center of Washington DCAcademy of HopeAFSCME Council 26Amalgamated BankAsian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA)Bread for the CityBread for the City Medical ClinicBright Start Childcare and PreschoolBusboys and PoetsCapital Area Food Bank, CLASPCommunity IT InnovatorsDC Coalition Against Domestic ViolenceDC For DemocracyDC Fiscal Policy InstituteDC Jobs CouncilDC Jobs with JusticeDC Primary Care AssociationDC SafeEatonvilleEconomic Policy InstituteFair Budget Coalition, Family and Medical Counseling Service, Inc. (FMCS)Family Values at WorkFlavaInspire BBQJames and Hoffman, P.C.La Clinica Del PuebloLabor Project for Working FamiliesMadhatter RestaurantMany Languages One VoiceMary’s Center, Metropolitan Washington Labor CouncilMiriam’s KitchenMomsRisingNational Association of School NursesNational Consumers LeagueNational Day Laborer Organizing NetworkNational Nurses UnitedNational Organization for Women – DC ChapterNational Partnership for Women and FamiliesOne DCOperation EateryOUR DCPlanned Parenthood of Metropolitan WashingtonPleasant PopsPolitics and ProsePositive ForcePublic CitizenSEIU 1199SEIU 32BJSo Others Might EatThe New York Hotel Trades CouncilThe Women’s CollectiveThe Wydown Coffee BarUFCW Local 400Unite Here! Local 23Unite Here! Local 25Washington Cable SystemsWashington Legal Clinic for the HomelessWe Are Family DCWOW (Wider Opportunities for Women)

 

The Respect DC Coalition is supported by A. Philip Randolph InstituteAmerican Friends Service Committee-DC Peace and Economic Justice ProgramBread for the CityClean Water ActionDC Employment Justice CenterDC Environmental NetworkDC Federation of Civic AssociationsDC Jobs with JusticeDC Jobs CouncilFirst Rising Mt. Zion Baptist ChurchFlorida Avenue Baptist ChurchFood and Water WatchFoundry United Methodist ChurchGray Panthers of Metro WashingtonIsrael Baptist ChurchJews United for Justice, Living Faith Baptist Church and International Ministries, Metro Washington Labor CouncilNew Prospect Family Life CenterONE DCPennsylvania Avenue Baptist ChurchReentry Network for Returning CitizensRestaurant Opportunities Center of DCSt. Theresa of Avila Catholic ChurchUFCW Local 400Ward Four ThrivesWider Opportunities for Women


 

We remain disappointed and angry with Mayor Gray and Council Members Alexander, Bonds, Bowser, Catania, Cheh and Wells who, last week, made it clear that they are on the side of corporate greed and against the will of their constituents. Despite their inability to stand up to big, outside, corporations, we forced our elected officials to admit that $8.25 is not enough in DC. The rejection of the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) by a minority on the council and the Mayor was only the beginning of the fight for a living wage. We will not stop until all District workers are paid fairly.

“According to a Hart Research survey, 71 percent of DC residents were in favor of the LRAA. We have talked to thousands of District residents over the past several months, and the message we have heard is clear: We deserve better than the poverty wage jobs,” said Reverend Edwin Jones, Senior Pastor at Living Faith Baptist Church.  ”Unfortunately, our Mayor and six of our Council Members disagree, and seem more interested in corporate money and attending ribbon cutting ceremonies, than in making sure DC residents have access to good jobs that will allow them to remain in an increasingly expensive city. DC residents know we are worth more and we will not stop until we get the wages we deserve.”

“Although the LRAA failed, we created an environment within the DC Council and the community in which the Mayor and three council members who voted with big business felt the need to attempt to cover up their abandonment of DC’s working families by introducing their own minimum wage proposals,” said Kimberly Mitchell, a lifelong Ward 7 resident and Macy’s employee. “Because of our work the living wage and minimum wage issues are at the forefront and our elected officials have finally been forced to pay attention to low wage workers. We will not let large corporations, working in conjunction with some of our elected officials, evict us from our city without a fight.”

“We will not allow the will of the people of the District to be manipulated by the same elected officials who just allowed large corporations like Walmart to bully them into submission,” said Reverend Graylan Hagler, Senior Pastor at Plymouth United Congregational Church of Christ. “This is one of the most expensive cities in America, and we need a minimum wage that reflects that reality. Because so many of our elected officials continue to fail on this issue, we will be developing a proposal that works for DC residents and we welcome all elected officials who stand with the people of this city to support us as we pass it into law.”

 

Seven D.C. Council members stood with us. Six stood with Walmart. And Walmart, again, was able to strong-arm legislators into selling out working people.

Despite tens of thousands of emails, calls and visits to council members’ offices, the D.C. Council failed to override Mayor Vince Gray’s veto of the living wage bill for retail workers.

Six council members—Yvette Alexander, Anita Bonds, Muriel Bowser, David Catania, Mary Cheh, and Tommy Wells—ignored the overwhelming support for this bill from people across the District. But the fight for fair pay for workers in the District isn’t over and we need to thank those who stood with us and ask them to support a living wage for all workers going forward.

Please take a second to thank council members Marion Barry, Jack Evans, Jim Graham, David Grosso, Kenyan McDuffie, Phil Mendelson and Vincent Orange for supporting working people and a living wage for retail workers in the District.

Together, we’ve built a movement that isn’t going away.

We made sure the issue of a living wage was front and center across the country. We exposed Walmart’s hypocrisy and just how far they will go to deny workers fair pay.

And we backed council members into a corner; forcing them to have a real conversation about raising the wage for all working people. For the council members who sided with Walmart, we need to let them know there will be consequences. But we also need to show those members who voted for a living wage for retail workers that we’ve got their back.

Click here to send a thank you email to the seven council members who stood with workers, not Walmart, this week.

If you missed it last week, check out this excellent video of the action from our friends at OUR DC.