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DC lawmakers approve citywide $15 minimum wage

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WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers in the nation's capital have approved a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

That puts the District of Columbia alongside a number of other cities and the states of California and New York in mandating pay raises for retail, restaurant and service-industry workers. The labor movement has seen push back from some states, which have passed laws prohibiting cities and towns from changing workers' pay and benefits on their own.

The D.C. Council unanimously approved the wage increase, and Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser has pledged to sign it when it reaches her desk, likely sometime this summer.

The bill would raise the wage gradually until it hits $15 in 2020. After that, future increases would be tied to inflation.

Some business advocates have argued that raising the wage to more than double the federal minimum of $7.25 - which is also the minimum wage in Virginia - will prompt employers to lay off workers or even move to neighboring jurisdictions.

Other business owners, however, spoke out in favor of hiking minimum pay.

"When the minimum wage goes up it puts money in the paychecks of people who most need to spend it - from making rent to buying things they could not afford before from the grocer, the pharmacy, the auto repair, and, yes, the hardware store," Gina Schaefer, owner of A Few Cool Hardware Stores, said in an emailed statement.

"It will not only provide a more livable wage to all D.C. workers but also will create a windfall for businesses that will benefit directly from the added money circulating in the community," Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys & Poets and Mulebone restaurants, added.

House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke against the wage increase. Visiting a drug treatment center in southeast Washington on Tuesday, The Wisconsin Republican said the higher minimum wage "will actually do more harm than good in so many instances."

Ryan spoke after unveiling his party's economic agenda, which includes the goal of reducing poverty by tying work requirements to government aid.

Critics say the GOP's plan could send poor families even deeper into poverty

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