A recent study showed that the cost of living in the District is almost 22% higher than the national average. A similar report showed that in order to live comfortably in DC, it requires a household income of $90,000. In light of these two studies, there is one interesting factor in the District that doesn’t seem to add up: the minimum wage rate.

The Living wage act of 2006 was established to ensure that companies that bring in more than $100,000 of business in DC are required to pay their employees a super-minimum wage which is supposed to reset each year based on the rate of the cost of living. Considering the fact that the cost of living in DC has risen substantially in the last few years, it’s interesting that those rates have not changed. So, how does one live in this city on a minimum wage of $8.25/hour when the average one bedroom apartment costs $1,200? The math doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me either. DC mayor, Vincent Gray, has a couple reasons behind his apprehension to raise the minimum wage:

1. Higher wage could exempt people from government assistance:

In February of this year, Gray went to the council to make a proposal that the council raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour regardless of whether or not President Obama was able to get Congress to pass a bill to raise the federal minimum. He claimed that he understood how tough it is to live in the District on such low wages. Since then, he has changed the direction of his decision and is no longer in favor of raising the minimum wage. One of his reasons being concern that an increase in the minimum wage would mean those who typically have access to food stamps, welfare, and other forms of public assistance would no longer have that option. However, council member Vincent Orange claimed that a $12.50 an hour wage rate would allow two-parent households to make $52,000 a year, which would allow them to own a home and survive without assistance. So, do you take a pay increase and lose food stamps or keep the government assistance and make less money?

2. Wage increases may hamper economic development

With companies such as Wal-Mart moving into the city, it’s difficult to ignore the need for higher wage, but Mayor Gray seems to think otherwise. District officials are battling with sticking to their liberal ideologies and still favoring economic development. Mayor Gray and other officials have faced pushback from many DC residents and organizations such as Respect DC who have organized to secure living wage jobs for the city’s residents. This has caused friction between those in favor of the growth and economic development and those who fight everyday for the wage earners, and has the potential to make Wal-Mart decision makers hesitant to open more stores in the area. As a city that is expected to bring in over 1.6 million new residents in the next thirty years, some on the council want to ensure that there’s adequate economic development to support this rapid growth. The conflict is whether or not this development is at the expense of longtime District residents and earners….literally.

Whether you are in support of increasing the minimum wage or keeping it as is, the fact still remains, Mayor Gray and other members on the council have an uphill battle to prevent the increase from happening. Many of the residents of DC have made it clear that they plan to continue fighting until the council reaches a decision to increase the minimum wage. Council member at Large, Vincent Orange, is scheduling a meeting Monday with his committee to discuss a $3 increase over a three-year period. They don’t plan to stop until the numbers add up a little bit better and people aren’t scraping up pennies to get by.


Do you agree with the current DC minimum wage rate?