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Thies: D.C. Government Doesn't Pay a "Living Wage"

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“People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.”

Someone needs to carve those words onto a wall in the D.C. Council legislative chamber.

Last week, the Council approved a measure that would require Walmart and other large retailers doing business in the District to pay a “living wage” of $12.50 per hour.

But… uh oh. Hypocrisy alert.

District government pays less than $12.50 per hour.

According to the D.C. Department of Human Resources, some full-time school maintenance workers and custodians make $11.75 per hour. The rate for a clerk at the University of the District of Columbia is $10.40.

Council members went to great lengths to criticize Walmart's pay scale. They should have taken care of their own business first.

The Council's thinking is flawed on other accounts, too. Their law targets Walmart while exempting other businesses from paying higher salaries.

Here is a better idea: Raise the current minimum wage in D.C. -- $8.25 per hour -- for every worker. Scale it up incrementally over time.

And here is another idea: If you are a politician extolling the virtues of a living wage, make sure the government employees over whom you preside are making a living wage.

The D.C. Council's shenanigans are scaring off potential employers, not just Walmart. In a city where unemployment is a huge problem, that’s bad business.

Chuck Thies is a political, communications and advocacy consultant. From 1998 to 2010 his portfolio included District of Columbia politics. Chuck has worked on national projects and internationally in Europe, Africa, the Middle East , China and Mexico. If you are daring, follow him on twitter @ChuckThies.

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