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Living wage on tap for D.C. brewery workers

Wednesday - 10/9/2013, 2:28pm  ET

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DC Brau co-founder and CEO Brandon Skall says the living wage bill 'just makes sense. It's about putting money back into the community.' (WTOP/Alicia Lozano)

WASHINGTON -- D.C. Councilmember and mayoral hopeful Tommy Wells wasted no time in introducing a living wage bill after Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed legislation last month that would have hiked the minimum wage in Washington from $8.25 to $12.25.

The "Living Wage for All DC" would raise salaries to $10.25 over two years. It would also bump the District's standard deduction for personal income taxes.

Some local businesses have already upped their salaries as a sign of solidarity for low income workers. DC Brau Brewing Company, located in Northeast D.C., announced two weeks ago their employees would start earning a living wage effective immediately.

"It's not just about rewarding people for working hard, it is about laying down a foundation for our community to continue grow," says DC Brau co-founder and CEO Brandon Skall. "Investing in employees is the same as investing in community, as well."

Ranked as one of the fastest growing breweries in the U.S., DC Brau's growth rate is at 195 percent. Despite their success, Skall considers his a small business that can afford to increase its workers' wages without feeling the financial sting.

"It's unnoticeable on our end," he says. "We're not hiring hundreds and hundreds of people and having to pay them $13 an hour."

The original minimum wage legislation was geared towards big box retailers like Wal-Mart. Opponents called it a "job killer" and Gray was quick to point out the bill could have detracted business from the District.

Dave Coleman, co-founder and president of 3 Stars Brewing Company, supports the living wage bill, but says he can understand why a small business owner would have a hard time paying big box wages without big box income.

"On the one hand, I don't want anyone telling me how to run my business ... but I believe everyone should get a living wage, especially in a town like D.C., which is rather expensive," he says.

3 Stars pays their employees a starting wage of about $10, he says.

"You get what you put in," he says.

"For us, we wanted to make sure that we had a core team of good employees that like working for us. In order to do that, you have to give people a fair wage."

The federal minimum wage is $7.25.

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