WASHINGTON (WJLA) - It's official. Washington's minimum wage will increase to $11.50 an hour in 2016 after Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson signed legislation into law Wednesday morning.
It was an event that attracted several Council members hoping to replace Mayor Gray in April's Democratic primary.
A new Washington Post poll shows Gray as the top Democrat in the mayoral race with 24 percent of voter support, far outpacing his challengers on the D.C. Council: Jack Evans, Muriel Bowser, Tommy Wells and Vincent Orange.
But Wednesday, the mayor declined to answer any questions about his campaign – in 2010 or 2014. Instead, he wanted attention focused on this boost in workers’ wages.
After signing the bill, Gray told reporters, “President Obama said it well – it's well past the time to raise the minimum wage that in real terms right now is below the wage that was paid during the presidency of Harry Truman, 1949 to 1952.”
D.C.’s current minimum wage is $8.25 an hour, but starting in July all District workers must make at least $9.50 an hour. The minimum wage will then jump to $10.50 in July 2015, and to $11.50 in July 2016.
Mendelson said, “At the moment, that would be the highest minimum wage in the country except for a very, very small town outside Seattle, Washington.”
Last year, Mayor Gray clashed with D.C. Council members and vetoed the Large Retailer Accountability Act, also known as the Living Wage Bill, because it only required big box retailers, like Walmart, to pay their employees $12.50 an hour.
But this minimum wage increase applies to all District businesses. The D.C. Council unanimously approved the legislation last month.
Most Council members attended Wednesday's bill signing ceremony, including all four of Gray's challengers in the Democratic primary.
Among them, Vincent Orange made sure to state for the record – and the cameras present – that he authored and introduced the legislation, now law.
“As you know, there were a number of minimum wage bills that came through the Council,” Orange said, “So we looked at a number of things. But my bill went forward to increase the minimum wage to $11.50 per hour.”
It's still unclear how – or if – this law or the Walmart bill will influence the mayoral race in any way.
Meanwhile, both Montgomery and Prince George's counties have also approved minimum wage increases. Like D.C., the minimum wage in both jurisdictions will, over time, increase to $11.50. Maryland lawmakers are also considering a wage hike statewide.