Minimum Wage Rally in Annapolis

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown pledged to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 and index it to inflation thereafter at a rally before hundreds of minimum wage supporters as well as elected officials, faith leaders, low-wage workers and business owners in Annapolis on the evening of Jan. 14. The state’s highest elected officials also spoke of the need to increase pay for tipped workers – from 50 to 70 percent of the prevailing wage.

The Raise Maryland campaign also released a list of legislators – a majority of Democrats in both the House of Delegates and the Senate — who are committed to passing a progressive and meaningful bill to raise the wage in this year’s General Assembly session.

“We’re going to raise the minimum wage because it’s an important step to grow our economy from the middle out, increase consumer demand, and create more jobs for Maryland families,” said O’Malley. “Working together, we’ll build the consensus necessary to help hardworking moms and dads across our state and fulfill the promise of fair pay for hard work.”

Since launching at the beginning of last year’s legislative session, Raise Maryland has educated Marylanders about why a raise in the minimum wage is good for workers, businesses, the state’s economy and businesses. The campaign has knocked on more than 40,000 doors, gathered 18,000 petition signatures, more than 5,500 letters and engaged Marylanders to join in a wave of support for a higher wage. Raise Maryland has also garnered support from more than 100 businesses across the state as well as from nearly 70 community, political, social action, labor and faith groups.

“It’s time to get the job done and raise our minimum wage so that we can extend ladders of opportunity to all Marylanders,” said Brown. “When Maryland’s working families are strong, our economy is strong, and securing a long-overdue minimum wage increase is one of my top priorities this legislative session.”

According to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, approximately 472,000 Marylanders would benefit from the increase, putting $466 million more in their pockets in the next two years. At the same time, businesses would benefit from nearly half a billion dollars in new consumer spending and would create more than 4,000 new full-time jobs as they expand to meet increased demand.

“Raising the wage is a triple win for Maryland’s workers, businesses and our communities,” said Ricarra Jones, chair of the Raise Maryland coalition. “Workers will spend their higher wages locally, not sock it away in Swiss bank accounts. That’s a huge stimulus for state businesses.”

National polls show that 67 percent of small business owners support increasing the federal minimum wage and adjusting it yearly to keep pace with the cost of living. The most rigorous studies of the impact of actual minimum wage increases show they do not cause job loss – whether during periods of economic growth or during recessions.

“Business opposition to higher wages will tell you that increasing their wages will cause layoffs, lowered hours, or increased prices of their goods,” said Amanda Rothschild, co-owner and manager of Charmington’s Café in Baltimore City. “They’re forgetting that employees are not raw costs of goods – they’re people, and they are assets to your business. Invest in your employees, and they will bring a return on that investment. It’s a pretty simple recipe for success.”

If enacted, Maryland would have one of the most progressive minimum wage laws in the county. Though twenty-one states currently have a higher minimum wage, Maryland’s rate would be higher than many other states as well as being indexed. Additionally, the Maryland General Assembly would be only the second legislative body in the county to pass indexing the minimum wage (Connecticut is the first); voters voted for indexing through referenda in the 11 other states where the wage rises with the rate of inflation. The Raise Maryland minimum wage proposal mirrors national legislation currently pending before the U.S. Senate.

“I, like countless other temporary and low wage workers deserve a fair wage in order to be able to support our families, to be able to afford eating three times per day and to give our children basic school supplies,” said Pascal Njii, a low-wage worker from Beltsville.

Momentum has been building for Maryland to increase the state’s minimum wage during the upcoming 2014 session of the Maryland General Assembly.  In 2013, the Montgomery and Prince George’s county councils each passed bills raising wages in those jurisdictions to $11.50 by 2017.


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