PRESS RELEASE: Advocates Call on Mayor Bowser and DC Council to Advance Complete Agenda for Working Families

For Immediate Release
April 12, 2016

Contact: Rebecca Ennen,, 202-499-4073
                    Ari Schwartz,, 202-674-3228

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DC’s working families need higher wages, enough hours to make ends meet, and paid leave to earn a decent living and meet demands of today’s economy

WASHINGTON, DC -- During last month’s State of the District address, Mayor Bowser committed to raise the minimum wage by 2020. Today, in tandem with a delegation of restaurant workers delivering petitions to the Mayor supporting the inclusion of tipped positions in her plan, local economic justice advocates are calling on the Mayor and the Council to go further and support a complete agenda for working families. At a time of enormous national momentum for policies that meet the needs of 21st century working families and catalyze strong local economies, DC should be a model jurisdiction in creating more good jobs that enable struggling people and families to earn a decent living.

A complete good jobs agenda, say local advocates, includes not just a higher minimum wage, but the end of the $2.77/hour subminimum “tipped wage” that employers pay tipped staff, like servers and bartenders; laws that guarantee the opportunity to work enough hours on a predictable schedule to make ends meet; and the establishment of universal paid leave programs to ensure every person who works can also take time to heal from a serious illness or care for loved ones and then return to a decent job.

Nationally these pragmatic policies are staggeringly popular. Last week, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a state budget that will raise minimum wages to $15/hour and establish a 12-week paid family leave program for all. California, which has had paid family and medical leave for over a decade, also signed a minimum wage increase last week. Confidential polling by right-wing pollster Frank Luntz revealed that business leaders overwhelmingly support predictable scheduling, paid leave, and raising the minimum wage. Local and state Chambers of Commerce, typically the most vocal lobbyists against these policies, actually advocate against their own members’ positions.

Local advocates for policies that support working families note that in DC, high numbers of both ordinary voters and business owners support a broad range of good jobs policies. Delvone Michael, Director of DC Working Families, said, “Mayor Bowser speaks about the need to create ‘pathways to the middle class,’ but raising the minimum wage without including DC’s thousands of tipped workers, ensuring fair scheduling, or guaranteeing key benefits like paid family and medical leave means low-wage work will continue to divert our families off that pathway. Fair pay, paid leave, and stable hours should not be reserved for the privileged few.”

Family and medical emergencies happen to everyone, yet only 13% of people who work in DC have paid family or medical leave benefits. The lowest-paid employees face the highest barriers: only 5% of low-income families have access to paid family leave, compared with 22% of highest income earners. “The proposed Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 gives DC a tremendous opportunity to reduce economic and health disparities and to level the playing field not only for families but also for businesses,” said Joanna Blotner, DC Paid Family Leave campaign manager. “Paid leave for all working people - when coupled with higher wages and predictable scheduling - is necessary to making sure everyone in DC has a fair shot.”

21st century working people need 21st century jobs. Most people who work also have significant responsibilities at home: nearly 40% of adults provide care to an ailing or aging loved one and, in DC, 81% of low income, single parent families are headed by women. “When DC’s African-American and Latina women make only 56 cents and 50 cents, respectively, on the dollar compared to white men, of course we need higher and more equal wages,” said Nikki Lewis, Executive Director of DC Jobs With Justice. “But raising the minimum wage alone will not make ends meet for most families: a family’s breadwinner still needs to be given enough hours to work with enough notice to have a decent quality of life. We all deserve the peace of mind that comes with higher wages, stable hours, and paid leave.”

Gaby Madriz, Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Washington, DC, added, “Without an elimination of the subminimum tipped wage, the mayor’s forthcoming minimum wage legislation will fall very short of the needs of more than 41,000 people working in the foodservice industry, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck. Today we are calling on the Mayor to show her support for the largest sector of workers in the District.”

While the District awaits details on the Mayor’s plans for raising wages, DC advocates who have been working hard for years to move this issue through the ballot measure process recently cleared a major legal hurdle in D.C. Superior Court, finally allowing voters to weigh in this November on a $15/hour local minimum wage and phase out the $2.77/hour tipped wage. The legislative and ballot measure priorities represented by the Fight for Fifteen, Just Hours, One Fair Wage, and Paid Family Leave campaigns make up a complete good jobs agenda to ensure every working person and family in our city has a fair shot. The leaders of these campaigns, and the hundreds of thousands of District residents they stand for, look forward to working with the Mayor and the Council to ensure that the city moves ahead with real, common sense solutions to the most pressing needs of working families.