D.C. Minimum Wage Battle Thrust Into Court

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The head of the Washington, D.C.’s Chamber of Commerce has brought the fight over a $15 minimum wage in the nation’s capital to the courtroom.
     Harry Wingo’s lawsuit takes aim at the summary statement for the initiative set to hit district ballots in 2016, saying it could mislead voters by calling the wage hike “gradual.”
     The proposed timeline for the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2016 is anything but, according to Wingo’s suit, filed Monday in D.C. Superior Court.
     “Wages increase 30.43 in total for businesses with non-tip workers and over 200% for those that employ gratuity workers over a period of just a few years,” says Wingo, a D.C. voter who acts as president and CEO of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. “The misleading Summary Statement describing these substantial annual increases as ‘gradual’ improperly creates prejudice in favor of the proposed measure.”
     Wingo also says the proposed wage increase unfairly discriminates against certain government workers whose pay the raise wouldn’t touch.
     Matthew Hanson submitted the initiative to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics in May, according to the complaint.
     The proposed legislation would increase the minimum wage for employees who don’t receive tips to $15 per hour by 2020, with employees who do receive tips reaching the same total four years later. The wage would then be subject to a cost of living adjustment every year after reaching $15 per hour.
     Wingo’s complaint just beat the 10 day window for those opposed to the initiative to file a legal challenge against it in Washington courts.
     The board published a short title, summary statement and legislative text for the initiative in the D.C. Register just over a week ago, on Aug. 14, according to the complaint.
     If supporters can convince at least 5 percent of the district to sign a petition in support of the initiative, the proposed legislation would be on the ballot during the 2016 election in Washington.
     The $15 minimum wage movement has received increased support across the country in recent months with large-scale protests taking place in Washington, Chicago, New York and Seattle.
     Critics of such legislation, including the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations, claim the increase in the wage would cause companies to lay off more workers or cut hours to maintain profits in the face of higher labor costs.
     Proponents of the legislation argue that the current minimum wage is not high enough for workers to support their families, forcing people to rely on food stamps.
     Wingo seeks a court order declaring the initiative improper and forcing the D.C. elections board to reject it.
     The Washington Post first reported the challenge Monday.
     The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics declined to comment on the pending challenge.
     Mark London of London & Mean represents Wingo and did not respond to request for comment on the case.
     Wingo directed a separate inquiry to a representative who has not returned the request for comment.

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