Mixed Reaction to Wage Hikes
Published: Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 13:01
Amid celebrations surrounding the recent D.C. Council provision for a higher minimum wage, concerns remain surrounding implementation of the new policy as some students fret that a higher minimum wage will limit the availability of full- and part-time jobs off campus.
The measure to increase the minimum wage would give the District and the neighboring Maryland suburbs of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties one of the highest minimum wages in the nation. The change would also index the wage for inflation beyond 2016.
The proposed change, which would raise the minimum wage to $11.50 from $8.25 per hour beginning in 2016, is now in the hands of Mayor Vincent Gray, who is expected to sign the bill later this month. While Gray has previously supported a more modest increase to $10 per hour, the D.C. Council’s unanimous approval means it could likely override any possible mayoral veto.
Any changes would immediately affect Georgetown and those employed by the university, according to University Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh.
“Georgetown abides by D.C. laws and will pay new minimum wages set in the District of Columbia,” Pugh wrote in an email. “We are thoughtfully working to integrate these changes into departmental budgets in the coming years.”
The university has already begun working to ensure that the wage increase, despite impacting department budgets, does not pose a negative effect on student employees, according to Associate Director of Student Employment Programs Jessica Witczak.
“Part-time employment is essential to many students in order to earn money to put [toward] the cost of attendance,” Witzcak wrote in an email. “We are cognizant that this change will impact the budget of many departments throughout the university which, in turn, has the ability to impact the number of available student positions and number of hours provided.”
According to Witzcak, the university currently pays undergraduate employees between $8.25 and $12.00 per hour depending on the position.
For students working off campus, there is concern that the wage increase could cause employers to either decrease hours or lower the number of employees to help offset the cost.
Cathy Eastman, assistant store manager for Anthropologie on M Street, which employs several student employees, does not see this negative outlook as a possibility.
“Our business is set up where it’s our payroll versus our sales, so of course we would have to arrange the business [so that] we could offset some of the impacts of the new minimum wage,” Eastman said.
Still, Eastman looked favorably on a higher minimum wage for her employees.
“The increase is good for us, but we’ve always paid competitively — a little bit more than other brands,” Eastman said. “It’s always a great thing for people to feel like they’re getting paid their worth.”
The change also has the potential to negatively affect part-time employees, who are more likely to earn a lower hourly wage than their full-time counterparts.
“I think raising the minimum wage is a great idea, but I think it will hurt student employment,” Scott Harrington (SFS ’16), who works at North Face on M Street, said. “I believe that the higher wages will cause employers to focus on investing in their current workers as much as possible.”
Despite the general approval of the proposed increase, the signed bill notably lacked a provision to raise the wages of tipped restaurant workers, who currently earn a minimum wage of $2.77 before tips.
“For college students, I don’t think it really matters much,” Dylan Leone (SFS ’17), who works as a student guard on campus, said. “It’s the minimum-wage workers in the city who are below the poverty line [who] are going to be affected. They need this minimum wage increase to keep a basic standard of living in the city.”