On Monday, Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed into law an act that will drastically raise the city’s minimum wage, making the District the latest addition to the list of cities that have adopted similar measures.
The Fair Shot Minimum Wage Amendment Act of 2016 will increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. In DC, the minimum wage currently stands at $10.50 but will increase to $11.50 in July as a result of 2014 legislation. Tipped minimum wage, which is currently $2.77, will increase to $5 by 2020.
President Obama voiced his support for the move in a statement commending the District of Columbia, Bowser, and the DC Council.
"No American working full-time in this country should struggle to make ends meet," the statement reads. "America deserves a raise."
Obama hasn’t always supported a minimum wage hike this large — and the same goes for many other Democrats. Since the Bernie Sanders campaign and the rise of the "Fight for $15" movement, Democrats have faced pressure to become more ambitious in their minimum wage goals.
Since the early days of her campaign, Hillary Clinton has supported increasing the minimum wage to $12 an hour. At the Democratic debate in April, Sanders challenged her when she said she would sign a bill for a $15 minimum wage if placed in front of her. She then clarified her response, saying $15 should be the goal, but $12 should be the legal minimum.
"Hillary believes we are long overdue in raising the minimum wage," Clinton’s campaign site states. "She has supported raising the federal minimum wage to $12, and believes that we should go further than the federal minimum through state and local efforts, and workers organizing and bargaining for higher wages, such as the Fight for 15."
Some economists say a $15 minimum wage could cost jobs
The Fight for $15 movement has already gained traction in certain cities and states around the country. On its webpage, cities like Chicago, Seattle, and Portland are all hailed as victories for their recent legislative acts — as are New York and California, which have both passed statewide referendums to raise the minimum wage to $15.
But there’s some debate about whether a $15 minimum wage will ultimately be good for workers. Back in March when California passed its referendum, Vox’s Timothy B. Lee interviewed multiple economists to see if the Fight for $15 proposals made economic sense.
Two economists that Lee interviewed could not rule out the possibility that such a drastic increase in the minimum wage could cost significant jobs. But other economists disagree. One study from the University of California Berkeley predicts that in New York state, where the minimum wage is scheduled to rise to $15 by 2021, employment will actually increase slightly.
It’s hard to predict what the cause and effect relationship will be, because there’s no precedent for a minimum wage this high. Either way, DC just became a part of the experiment.