The Maryland Green Party endorses HB1416 / SB962. This measure would increase the minimum wage in Maryland to $15 an hour, in phases, culminating in the $15 by 2024. At that point, the minimum wage would begin to be indexed for inflation. The bill provides for a slower schedule of phase-in for businesses that employ fewer than 26 people.
The Maryland Green Party sees this legislation as a step towards greater economic justice and equality in Maryland and in the nation. The Fight for Fifteen is taking place on many fronts, and one of them is legislative efforts to raise the minimum wage. Unfortunately, even in 2017, $15 an hour is too low as a minimum wage. At full time hours, such a worker would earn only about $30,000 a year, far too little to support a family, even a parent and child, at what the Labor Department describes as “a moderate standard of living”. For workers involuntarily employed part-time, the pay is even more inadequate. Furthermore, the passed-in nature of the bill means that the full result will not be achieved for another seven years, by which time the $15 an hour figure will be even less sufficient. The slower phase-in for small business means that workers in these firms will experience still lower wages for a longer period.
A higher minimum wage is needed because workers employed at the current low minimum wage in Maryland, now pegged at $8.75 an hour, and schedule to rise to just $10.10 by July, 2018, do not earn enough, even at forty hours a week, to support themselves. Instead, they must be subsidized by tax money or by other persons in order to survive. Businesses that make extra profits, or function by dint of these low rates, steal business and customers from companies that pay a living wage, thus damaging conditions throughout the economy.
Sometimes, the argument is made that paying a non-living wage is less of a problem, because most minimum wage earners are teen-agers. Leaving aside the question of why it would appropriate to pay our vulnerable young workers, who need to maximize their hourly earnings so that they might pursue their education and training, the claim that most minimum wage earners are not adults is clearly false. Nationwide, and in Maryland, only about 20% of the minimum wage earners are teenagers.
In a nation struggling with the rapidly growing economic inequality of the past forty years, raising the minimum wage is an important method of shrinking that gap, by lifting the floor. Further, in a nation with a rising burden of debt and with a lack of effective purchasing power for the majority, increased wages translate immediately into increased spending, acting as a desperately needed stimulus for our economy. Workers who earn more are also more likely to be able to save money for further education and training, for themselves and for their children, thus heightening productivity.
Raising the minimum wage in our state is matter of justice, economic self-interest for the state and our citizens, and long overdue. We support the passage of this bill and call for building any rallies or other actions designed to build and show support for it.