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Around 100 people from across the country protested outside the D.C. Chamber of Commerce this afternoon in favor of stalled ballot initiative that proposes raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in D.C.
“We can see your greedy side. Traitor, traitor you can’t hide,” protesters chanted outside the Chamber building in Chinatown before marching to Franklin Square. The protest was led by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.
“Instead of wanting a full debate, they know people are going to vote in favor [of the initiative] and are trying to block democracy,” said Saru Jayaraman, ROC’s co-director and co-founder, of former Chamber of Commerce President Harry Wingo‘s lawsuit. “Why not let the people debate what they want?”
A restaurant worker, who declined to give her name over fears of retaliation, said she moved from California to D.C. a year ago. In California, she was able to make her loan payments and put money away in savings. But in D.C., the waitress said she often has to go to a food bank for help.
“I work a job full-time and can’t make ends meet, and there’s no time for me to take a second job,” she said. “Never before in my life have I had to fight for minimum wage, and now I’m worried about facing retaliation [at work].”
In the past week, the mayor’s office, D.C. Board of Elections, and Office of Attorney General have all jumped into action following the judge’s ruling against the ballot initiative; the ruling throws into question the actions of BOE board members whose terms had expired.
At a hearing in late January, D.C. Superior Court Judge Maurice Ross ruled that ballot initiative language approved by BOE was invalid due to its members’ expired terms. Since that ruling, several D.C. agencies have been trying to digest what effects this opinion could have on other rulings the board had approved during the expired members’ time.
A judge today approved OAG’s request to intervene in the case. “Plaintiff [former Chamber of Commerce President Harry Wingo] may not, as he attempts here, launch a collateral attack on the composition of the Board through a challenge to its actions. The absence of this evidence and legal argument led to a clear error in the previous orders, warranting consideration,” the motion states.
This Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser‘s office announced a new nominee to BOE to replace one of the members whose term had expired. The nominee, David Michael Bennett, is a corporate attorney; he would replace BOE Chair Deborah Nichols.
The board, already involved in the pending lawsuit, has filed a motion requesting that the judge adjust his opinion, claiming he had no jurisdiction to make such a broad decision.
In an email, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said that the ruling would not affect recent Council appointments or the election of the mayor, since the appeals deadline has passed.
“I do not believe the ruling affects any recent elections or Board actions, as there is an appeal deadline for each that has long passed. [For example], anyone who wanted to challenge a 2014 election had to do so within a certain number of days of the election, not in 2016,” he wrote.