Labor groups are launching a referendum effort in D.C. to raise the minimum wage to $12.50 an hour.
After failing to get the so-called living wage bill targeting retailers like Walmart signed into law, activists want to take their fight to District voters and push for an across-the-board wage hike.
Outside city hall on Tuesday, labor organizers and clergy members promised to keep the pressure on city lawmakers. Complicating this effort is the fact that the D.C. Council is also working to pass a minimum wage increase.
Council member Vincent Orange (D-At Large) says he will pursue a minimum wage of $11.50, a dollar below what Orange originally proposed and what the activists want — but on par with similar minimum wage efforts in neighboring jurisdictions.
"Right now we have consensus to get $11.50, I believe, which would be the is highest in the nation. In the political process, you have to compromise," he says.
To get the initiative on the ballot, organizers will need signatures from five percent of all registered voters in the District — that over's 23,000 signatures.
And with so many lawmakers lining up to support the living wage increase, it looks like the real battle will be over whether to include tipped workers such as bartenders and servers, who make less than $3 an hour, in the minimum wage hike.