Mayor Vince Gray said he was enthusiastic to sign a bill today that will increase the District’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2016, even though he was hesitant to back the measure the DC Council approved unanimously last year.
The new law will raise the District’s minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $9.50 on July 1, followed by one-dollar hikes over the next two years. After 2016, the minimum wage would be pegged to the consumer price index.
Gray signed the bill in a ceremony attended by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and most of the Council, including the four members—Jack Evans, Muriel Bowser, Tommy Wells, and Vincent Orange—who are gunning for the mayor's job.
But in signing the bill, Gray did not rule out the possibility that he might try to tweak it as it is rolled out. Gray’s office commissioned a minimum-wage study from the Urban Institute, which is due to be delivered later this winter.
“I’m not sure what those changes would be,” Gray said at a Wilson Building press conference following the signing. “I was delighted to sign it.”
However, the activists who pushed the District government to increase the minimum wage are wary of the “tweaks” Gray, who preferred a flat increase to $10 an hour, might take.
“The mayor had no choice,” said the Rev. Graylan Hagler. “But it also raises the question that we need to be vigilant. It’s a minimum wage, not a livable wage.”
Hagler added that the “ground work” for the minimum wage increase was laid last summer during the push for the Large Retailer Accountability Act, a bill that would have forced Walmart and other big-box retailers to pay a “living wage” of at least $12.50 an hour. Gray vetoed that bill after Walmart threatened to pull out of some of its planned stores, and the veto was upheld.
DC’s minimum wage hike comes as the issue is coming to the forefront of regional and national politics. Prince George’s and Montgomery counties recently passed legislation raising their minimum wages to $11.50 by 2017. President Obama last week proposed raising the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009, to $10.10.