Fight for $12.50 Living Wage Begins in Nation's Capital
Joining the rising tide of communities fighting against vast income inequality in the U.S., activists and labor organizers in Washington, D.C. launched an initiative Tuesday to raise the minimum wage in the district to $12.50 per hour.
To do so, the group which began the drive, D.C. Working Families, must collect 23,000 signatures in order for the proposal to be included as a referendum on the D.C. ballot next November.
The referendum would also raise the hourly rate for tipped workers to $8.75 and would require the minimum wage to increase as the cost of living rises, in a city known as the epicenter of American wage disparity.
“A widening income and wealth gap has come to be one of the hallmarks of life in the nation’s capital,” as Naureen Khan at Al Jazeera notes, “driven by both the professionals with college degrees who call the city home, and the low-wage workers who have struggled to find work at all and whose unemployment rate remains disproportionately high.”
A recent analysis by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute showed that the top fifth of D.C income-earners have an average salary of $253,000 and the lowest fifth with an average of $9,100 per year.
Organizers for Working Families, who have been backed by “a coalition of labor groups, economic justice organizations and faith leaders,” as Al Jazeera reports, said they were “extremely disappointed” when Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed a living wage bill earlier this year that would have mandated large-scale retailers in the city to pay workers at least $12.50 an hour.
Walmart had threatened to pull its plans to build five new stores in D.C. if the law, which had been passed by the city council, wasn’t vetoed by the Mayor.
“We can’t wait no more. We’re taking things into our own hands,” said Delvone Michael, the new executive director of Working Families at a launch rally in front of the offices of the mayor and the City Council on Tuesday. “So while they’re in there figuring, we’re going to be out here organizing.”
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