Washington, D.C.’s, City Council unanimously approved a bill to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour Tuesday, and District Mayor Muriel Bowser has promised to sign it.
The measure amounts to a substantial hike in America’s capital city from the current minimum wage of $10.50 per hour, which was already scheduled to increase to $11.50 in July following a measure signed by former Mayor Vincent Gray. Under the new law, the wage in D.C. will rise to $15 per hour by 2020. The law also raises the minimum hourly wage for tipped workers, such as restaurant servers, from $2.77 to $5, reports The Washington Post.
D.C. joins a short list of other major cities to have passed similar measures raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, including Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. In April, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that will raise the minimum wage statewide to $15 per hour by 2022. Officials in both New York City and New York state have approved similar measures.
The battle over the minimum wage has become a hot button issue nationally in recent years, as labor activists have agitated for an increase to $15 per hour nationwide, a measure Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders supports. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, supports a more modest increase to $12 per hour.
D.C.’s new $15 minimum wage is likely the nail in the coffin for any hope of big box retailers opening stores east of the Anacostia River, the poorest part of the District, populated largely by African Americans. Walmart promised city leaders it would build two locations east of the river as part of a deal that let Walmart build three other stores in less economically distressed parts of the city. City leaders were outraged in January when, having built the three stores it wanted, Walmart reneged on its promise, canceling plans for the two additional locations. According to City Councilor Jack Evans, Walmart cited a possible $15 minimum wage as one of its reasons for canceling the stores. On the other hand, Walmart’s announcement in January came as the retailer also announced the closure of 154 stores across the United Sates—though not the three locations it had built in the District as part of the agreement.