Last week I proposed common-sense legislation to ensure a real living wage for every worker in D.C. Our social justice advocates have led a contagious battle, and just this week California caught the bug and became the first state in the nation to commit to raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour. Now it us up to all of us to keep the fight for a living wage moving forward in D.C. – to make our city a great place for every resident to live, work, and raise a family.

The reasons are obvious: D.C. needs a real living wage so working people in every part of the city can earn enough to support their families. The minimum wage has fallen behind the rising cost of living, and families who depend on it are falling further, too. This challenge is especially acute here in D.C., where necessities like decent housing and groceries can be out of reach for a full-time minimum wage worker who earns just $17,000 per year.

As a former D.C. social worker, I know the enormous pressure economic insecurity can create in a family. I’ve seen parents working two or three low-wage jobs while they struggle to raise their children, keep them in school, and put them on a path to greater success.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Business, the government, and the community must share responsibility. My Living Wage for All D.C. plan ensures that every worker in D.C. can earn enough to raise a family by: increasing the minimum wage over each of the next two years to $10.25, and then indexing it to keep up with the cost of urban living; significantly increasing income tax deductions, helping lower income households keep more of their hard-earned pay and moving the city toward a more progressive tax code; and increasing tax credits for small businesses, and lowering their property taxes, so they can prosper while creating good paying jobs in every community.

My Living Wage for All D.C. proposal is supported by a majority on the D.C. Council and has brought business and the D.C. Chamber of Commerce to the table. I call on Mayor Gray to support this legislation as well. It’s proof that when government and businesses work together, we can encourage job growth and spread prosperity and opportunity to every part of our city.


Tommy Wells

Special to the AFRO