Coalition Applauds Passage of Minimum Wage Increase, Paid Sick Days Expansion
The Paid Sick Days for All Coalition applauds the D.C. City Council passage of a bill that raises DC’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2016 and ties increases after that to the cost of living and a bill that closes loopholes in the current earned sick leave bill so that restaurant workers are included and all workers can use accrued sick leave after 90 days on the job.
“To win, you have to fight,” said D.C. restaurant worker Alex Garcia. “D.C. workers are achieving great changes that will benefit us and our entire city, and one of them is passage of the minimum wage increase and paid sick days by the D.C. council. It’s been great to have the support of these coalitions in our fight, and I also want to thank the council members who have come to our side. The struggle doesn’t end here; we will keep pressuring so that these benefits can be extended to tipped workers too. These laws will improve our economy, ensure that wages for many D.C. workers keep up with increased cost of living, and keep workers like me from having to choose between our health and our job.”
The Respect DC and Paid Sick Days for All coalitions also renewed their determination to raise the tipped minimum wage, so restaurant workers and other tipped workers make a living wage.
These bills will allow more DC residents to meet basic needs, address rising inequality in our city, and help boost our local economy. When the District’s working families earn enough money to cover the basics, it helps the whole DC economy. Right now, a mom or dad working full-time at a minimum wage job in the District earns $17,160 a year—which is below poverty for a family of three. Making such low wages, combined with the risk of losing wages or even their job when they’re sick means many have to rely on public assistance to keep their families afloat.
A 2011 survey of more than 500 D.C. restaurant workers revealed that nearly 80 percent had no paid sick days, and 59 percent reported going to work sick. This can have serious consequences for the health of these workers, their families, businesses, and the public. The Center for Disease Control found that nationally more than 10 million cases of foodborne illness each year are caused by sick restaurant workers contaminating food while they are at work.
Small business owners cite lack of sales as the greatest obstacle to recovery, and consumer spending accounts for nearly 70 percent of our national economy. More money in the hands of consumers will help get our economy back on track and will help our local businesses prosper.
Additional Coalition Quotes:
“This is a significant victory for everyone who lives and work in the District, not just for people working in low wage industries,” says Jacob Feinspan, executive director of Jews United for Justice. “The Jewish community and people of faith from across the city have supported these bills because they are expressions of our most deeply held values. We are thrilled to see the city council take such a strong stance in support of DC’s working families.”
“We are proud that the residents of DC stood up and forced the Council to do the right thing. We call on the Mayor to not make the same mistake he made with the Large Retailer Act, but to listen to the residents of this city, who deserve to be able to take care of themselves and their families, and overwhelmingly support these bills,” said Mike Wilson of Respect DC. “He needs to sign them into law immediately so DC workers can get the fair pay and paid sick days they have worked for, fought for, and deserve.”
“Passing an $11.50 minimum wage tied to the cost of living and paid sick days for all workers are two great steps forward for working people in Washington, DC. We’ve seen DC become more and more affluent, expensive, and booming with development, yet its longtime residents and working people have been largely shut out,” said Nikki Lewis, executive director of DC Jobs with Justice. “These victories begin to chip away at our city’s economic inequality. And we should keep in mind that the minimum wage was won because of workers and communities standing up against the greed of the biggest corporation in the world, standing up for the idea that we should put people over profits.”
“After so much hard work by a broad coalition to expand D.C.’s paid sick days law, D.C. workers who were previously excluded will now be able to earn paid sick days,” said Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work. “This is not only a good day for workers but also for businesses, consumers and the local economy. When workers get sick, they will no longer have to worry about whether they will have to lose a day’s wage — or worse, a job — to take care of themselves or a loved one. D.C. residents and visitors will no longer have to worry that the person preparing or serving their food might be working while sick. And businesses will have lower turnover costs and earn loyalty from workers and customers alike. All the evidence shows this is a win-win-win policy. It’s not surprising that we’re seeing momentum for work-family policy solutions growing from coast to coast.”
“The Employment Justice Center commends the DC Council for passing two bills today, one to strengthen the District’s paid sick leave law so it covers more workers and another to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 per hour,” said Ari Weisbard, Deputy Director of the Employment Justice Center. “The passage of these two laws is a major step forward for the thousands of hard-working people in the District who live from paycheck to paycheck and can lose their job just because they stay home when they are sick. Raising the minimum wage and ensuring all workers can take off work when sick will lead to greater economic security for these workers and a stronger and healthier District for all of us.”
“We’ve always offered paid sick days and are happy to see that all D.C. workers will be covered by this law,” said Roger Horowitz, owner of Pleasant Pops in D.C. “This policy really is a win-win for businesses and their workers. Happy employees mean happy customers and less turnover, which helps businesses’ bottom line.”
“Paid sick days is both a public health and a quality of life issue,” said D.C. restaurant worker Sonia Villatoro de Baccus. “Just being a tipped employee should not require us to choose between health and making ends meet.”
“After years of mobilizing and community building, D.C. has finally expanded its paid sick days law to include tipped workers,” said Jeremiah Lowery, research and policy coordinator at Restaurant Opportunities Center of Washington, DC. “The minimum wage law is a great start but D.C. must not leave behind tipped workers again, we urge them to pass a bill to raise the tipped minimum wage next year.”
“I love the fact that DC is a diners’ town. Eating out is part of our experience and an economic driver,” saidCarol Joyner, director of Labor Project for Working Families. “Those of us who spend time in restaurants and bars don’t want to get sick any more than servers want to come to work sick. Paid sick days is a social justice and public health imperative. Pass paid sick days for tipped workers today, increase the minimum wage and make DC the model that it should be for the nation.”
“This makes DC healthier as a community, by making sure our hard-working residents can take a day off when they need it,” said Elissa Silverman, DC Fiscal Policy Institute.
“The Metro Labor Council applauds the efforts of the City Council to raise wages for low wage workers struggling to make ends meet and to strengthen DC’s paid sick days law,” says Joslyn Williams, President of the AFL-CIO Metro Labor Council. “But this is just the first step. $11.50/ hour is still not enough to survive in this city, and this bill does not give a raise to tipped workers. We will continue to fight for better wages for all workers in this city.”
“For those people who prepare our food, a day’s pay – even at minimum wage – can represent the difference between feeding children or seeing them go hungry,” said Marina Streznewski, executive director of DC Jobs Council. “For those who live from paycheck to paycheck, the loss of even one day’s pay can begin a vicious cycle that ends in homelessness. Paid sick leave for all workers is a moral imperative.”
“OurDC applauds the council vote as a step in the right direction,” said James Adams, communications director of OurDC. “We continue to urge council members to endorse the Working Families Ballot Initiative calling for a $12.50 minimum wage. Districts working families deserve a real living wage.”
“Paid sick days aren’t just good for the workers who make use of them — they’re good for the public as a whole,” says Liz Borkowski, a researcher at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. “Workers who can stay home to recover from the flu or other health problems are less likely to spread diseases to clients, co-workers, and people on public transportation.”