The Equity Factor

D.C. Region Aims to Raise Minimum Wage, Virginians Left Out

Some good news out of the Beltway — wait, what? — where D.C. and Maryland officials are working to pass similar legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $11.50 by 2016. That’s between a 40 and 60 percent increase in three years for a region that has the highest median income in the country, at $88,000 annually.

District officials are working with Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, according to the Washington Post, which could result in a wage hike across a big chunk of the metro area.

“This is pretty unusual,” D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson told the Post. “We are standing together because so often an issue like minimum wage is argued divisively — that one jurisdiction is going to be at a competitive disadvantage with other jurisdictions. We are standing together to make a clear statement that that’s not going to be the case.” (Residents of Virginia, where lawmakers have shown no interest in raising the minimum wage above the federally required $7.25, are out of luck.)

Now, this isn’t a regional coalition — such as the type with which Portland and the Twin Cities have had success — but it’s the kind of regional cooperation that can strengthen a metro area. The District has had its own struggles with minimum wage, most recently in a failed attempt to raise the requirement for big-box stores.

But this new push, along with its neighbors in Maryland, would give low-income workers a significant boost in pay. And it wouldn’t have Maryland employees flocking to D.C. for higher wages, or vice-versa.

The Equity Factor is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

Bill Bradley is a writer and reporter living in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in Deadspin, GQ, and Vanity Fair, among others.

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Tags: washington, d.c.income inequalityequity factorminimum wageequity