The current Council session, Council Period 20 (2013-2014), has had among its highlights many victories for District workers. While increasingly the media and general public view Labor Day as merely the grand finale of a delightful summer, and a hallmark of the back-to-school season, it is important to remember that the holiday was created to celebrate the victories of the organized labor movement. President Grover Cleveland signed the legislation creating the federal holiday, and it is incorporated into the District’s list of federal holidays here.
While the internet is full of discussion in support and opposition to the famous bumper sticker claim that the weekend was brought to you by the labor movement, there is no disputing that the Council, working together with various stakeholders, brought the below list of long-desired labor goals into reality by enacting them into District law.
Thanks to the Minimum Wage Amendment Act, the minimum wage in the District increased from $8.25 to $9.50 on July 1 of 2014, and it will increase $1 annually on that same date until it reaches $11.50 in 2016, after which it will increase based on inflation. At the time it was passed, this created the highest minimum wage in the nation (outside of one small zone surrounding the Seattle airport).
Because of the Earned Sick and Safe Act, the District’s sick day protections were extended to those in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
Through passage of the Wage Theft Prevention Act, workers received additional guarantees that they would be paid for the work they completed.
And through the passage of the Fair Criminal Record Screening Act, job applicants will not face a criminal background check until after a conditional offer of emplyment is made, and such an offer cannot be withdrawn without a “legitimate business reason” being provided.
Throughout the process of passage of these laws, the Council took care to balance the very worker interests that we celebrate today with the legitimate concerns of our fast-growing business community. Chief among the business victories implemented this year were widely celebrated and unprecedented business tax cuts that allow them to reinvest these funds back into their businesses for a variety of uses, including hiring new employees.
While the passage of any piece of legislation may be perceived as having winners and losers, the Council takes great care to ensure that across an entire session, the broad diversity of our residential and business communities find hope for a better tomorrow thanks to Council action. We celebrate one aspect of this progress today, and take time to thank the District’s workers and those in the labor movement and their fellow advocates who worked so hard to achieve these victories.
Happy Labor Day!