County Council Approves Minimum Wage Increase (Photos & Video)

After almost four hours of heated debate, the Montgomery County Council approved a historic increase in the minimum wage Tuesday evening, becoming only the third jurisdiction in the nation to do so.

But the decision to lead the State in initiating change wasn’t an easy one.

The bill went through several amendments and appeared to possibly head down the path towards postponement with Council Vice President Craig Rice saying he thought that the County should wait for the State’s lead during General Assembly in January.

As the afternoon went on though, so did the bill, with applause erupting from the audience as the Council voted to pass the legislation 8-1, with County Executive Isiah Leggett saying he, “looks forward to signing the bill into law.”

The approved bill raises the minimum wage from $7.25 to $11.50 in four phases, with the final phase ending in 2017. The bill that passed through the Health and Human Services Committee ended with the same amount, but a year earlier.

The rate will increase each year on Oct. 1, changing to $8.40 in 2014, $9.55 in 2015, $10.75 in 2016, and $11.50 in 2017.

Councilmember Phil Andrews voted against the bill, saying he is, “disappointed that the County Council has rushed ahead and unnecessarily adopted a wage bill that is so flawed.”

Council President Nancy Navarro speaks to a rally prior to the Council's vote to raise the minimum wage.

Council President Nancy Navarro speaks to a rally prior to the Council’s vote to raise the minimum wage.

But the majority ruled, with co-sponsors Nancy Navarro and Valerie Ervin leading the way.

“We’re talking about real families,” Council President Navarro said. “We see their faces everyday. This is real here in Montgomery County.”

Ervin echoed Navarro, asking the question, “why is it that the poor people always have to wait?”

Maryland’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, or $15,000 a year for a full-time, year round worker. This leaves a full-time earner and their family below the Federal poverty line. Twenty-one states have raised their minimum wage above Maryland’s rate.

“We have a lot to be thankful for today, on the eve of Thanksgiving,” said Councilmember Marc Elrich. “We have taken a significant leap forward in the battle to ensure that all of our friends and neighbors in Montgomery County can share in the economic prosperity that many of us take for granted.”

The amendments to the bill include the following:

  • Applying the County minimum wage to tipped employees by requiring an employer to pay a base equal to 50 percent of the State minimum wage with an obligation to make up any shortfall in tips up to the County minimum wage.
  • Adding an exemption for a person under the age of 19 who works 20 hours per week or less.
  • Deleting the healthcare credit.
  • Amending the applicability to clarify that a worker must perform the work in the County.
  • Applying the County minimum wage to County employees.

Enforcement of the bill will be provided by the County’s Office of Human Rights and the Human Rights Commission.

Many people both in the audience and on the Council were “Tweeting” the debate as it happened. Here’s a look at what they were saying:

 

Workers hold up signs during the Montgomery County Council's vote to raise the minimum wage.

Workers hold up signs during the Montgomery County Council’s vote to raise the minimum wage.

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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at dtallman@mymcmedia.org or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug

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