Washington, D.C., Council Approves Higher Minimum Wage

In 2016, the minimum wage in the nation's capital will jump from $8.25 to $11.50.

Low wage workers wearing Santa hats protest for a minimum wage increase on Dec. 5, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
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The Washington, D.C., city council voted unanimously Tuesday to increase the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour in 2016, up from its current $8.25.

[READ: Twice as Many College Grads in Minimum Wage Jobs as 5 Years Ago]

The council's unanimous approval means it could pass the measure even if Mayor Vincent Gray chose to veto it. Gray has opposed the hike, instead advocating a $10 hourly wage. Neighboring Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, in Maryland, both passed similar measures in November that would increase their minimum wages to $11.50 by 2017.

Washington's wage hike is notable not only in that it will increase the minimum wage by nearly 40 percent but also because $11.50 is by current standards a remarkably high minimum wage; the highest minimum wage in the country right now is $10.55 per hour, in the city of San Francisco.

Washington's wage increase comes months after a major minimum wage fight in the nation's capital. The Large Retailer Accountability Act, which the council passed in July, would have meant a $12.50 minimum wage for employees of certain large retailers. Gray vetoed the act after Wal-Mart threatened to pull its planned stores out of the city if the measure went into effect. Wal-Mart has since opened two stores in the city.

[ALSO: Minimum Wage Hikes Win 2 Election Day Victories]

The past year has seen heavy debate nationwide over the minimum wage, as striking fast food workers demanded a wage of $15 per hour, and President Obama recently backed a bill that would boost the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The idea of boosting pay for the lowest-wage workers has gained traction; on Jan. 1, wages will rise in several U.S. states, including a hike in Washington, the state with the highest minimum wage. There, the minimum hourly wage will go from $9.19 to $9.32.

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