As Senate committee votes on $15 wage, activists demand improvements

PM_Logo.pngActivists are telling Senate committee members -- today voting on the $15 minimum wage bill -- to do better than the House and in fact to clean up the mess House members made of the badly needed measure that would give some support to 600,000 low-paid Maryland workers.



 

Members of the Senate Finance Committee this morning are planning to vote out to the Senate floor SB 280, the $15 minimum wage law that has already been savagely mutilated in its passage in the House of Delegates. The Washington Metropolitan Council AFL-CIO is urging its Maryland members to call Finance Committee members to avert further gutting of the bill, including an apparently planned exemption of all employers with fewer than 15 employees, which the Council’s Union City newsletter says “wouldff15.jpg include the vast majority of Maryland businesses.” Members of the Finance Committee should hear from progressives this morning – restore the cuts and clean up the House’s disgraceful mess – don’t make it worse.

As Josh Kurtz reports below in Maryland Matters, local officials looking at the pro-business, anti-worker changes being made in the Assembly, are demanding a provision that would allow local governments to fashion their own minimum wage measures that would set wages higher than the possible outcome in this year’s Assembly session. Progressive Maryland activists and staffers were engaged in circulating the letter printed below.

Local Officials Want Option of Topping State Minimum Wage

/By Josh Kurtz / Sixteen local elected officials have sent a last-minute appeal to members of the General Assembly, urging them to adopt a $15-an-hour minimum wage. The letter also asks that the minimum wage bill contain a provision allowing local governments to hike their minimum wages above the statewide figure.

The note is going out just as the Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote on – and possibly amend – the bill on Thursday morning.

The letter reads:

Dear Members of the Maryland General Assembly:

We have been elected by our communities and charged with responding to their needs and concerns. For too many in our districts, their hard work is powering our businesses and institutions, but they are still struggling to provide for their families and make ends meet. That’s why we support the state legislature’s current effort to raise Maryland’s minimum wage to $15 (HB 166, SB 280). We also want our state representatives to firmly protect our cities’ and counties’ long-standing right to adopt a higher local minimum wage when our workers and businesses need a higher minimum wage to thrive.

maryland_state_house.jpgUnder the state’s current minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, Maryland workers cannot afford the basics even if they work full time. Workers who support families struggle even more, especially in larger metropolitan areas. Maryland’s Fight for $15 campaign has a simple goal of giving hard-working state residents wages they deserve in order to cover basic living costs. Our state legislature now has the opportunity to raise the floor for all Maryland workers with the $15 minimum wage bill now before them, but the state’s minimum wage should remain just that: a floor.

Good ideas often start locally. Maryland has a long history of allowing the governments we lead to respond to the needs of our residents and supplement our state protections with innovative policies. However, we are a very diverse state and one size will not always fit all when it comes to our state laws. What works for the city of Baltimore may not help the Eastern Shore succeed. The people of Montgomery County have different needs than the residents of southern Maryland.

Our local governments must continue to allow our residents to propose local solutions that go beyond what our state laws can offer and respond to our unique needs. Counties and cities like ours, for example, should be able to listen to our residents when they tell us that they need better job standards or higher wages than what the state can offer. Our local policies have succeeded in the past, and we can trust our local democratic process to subject our local ideas to a thorough, transparent debate that elevates our unique, local voices.

By working hand-in-hand with our state delegations, we can pass effective state laws – like the Fight for $15 – that set a minimum standard, while maintaining the ability of local governments to make improvements as needed. We urge you to support the ability of local governments to respond to Maryland’s hard-working residents by passing the Fight for $15 bill without any preemption amendments.

Prince George’s County Councilmember Jolene Ivey

Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Reimer

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando

Montgomery County Councilmember Evan Glass

Baltimore City Councilmember Shannon Sneed

Baltimore City Councilmember John Bullock

Baltimore City Councilmember Kristerfer Burnett

Baltimore City Councilmember Bill Henry

Baltimore City Councilmember Mary Pat Clarke

Baltimore City Councilmember Zeke Cohen

Howard County Councilmember Liz Walsh

Howard County Councilmember Christina Rigby

College Park City Councilmember Denise Mitchell

Mt. Rainier Town Councilmember Celina Benitez

Berwyn Heights Town Councilmember Ethan Sweep

Hyattsville City Councilmember Carrianna Suiter