We Support a $15 Minimum Wage in 2014

The Green Party of Maryland proposes an immediate increase in the minimum wage - to a living wage of $15 an hour - to allow families to approach self sufficiency. An economy based upon self-sustaining families supports Maryland's tax base, local businesses, and Marylanders' property values. Payment of higher wages is associated with greater business investment in employee training, higher productivity, and lower employee absenteeism and turnover, which also strengthen our communities.

In addition to Maryland's large public workforce, substantial public funds are devoted to service contracts with private contractors, and to private employers on a regular basis via below-market-rate loans, tax incentives, bond financing, and other measures. The State can thus ensure that those employed by private contractors and private employers receiving public incentives receive a living wage by making all contracts and financing measures be contingent upon payment of a $15/hour wage to all employees.

A wage of $15/hr will not allow single parent families to stop relying upon housing assistance, food stamps and other programs but it will allow two-parent families with one or two children to provide housing, health care, food and other essentials for their families by working a total of sixty hours per week.  

Many two-parent families work a total of eighty or more hours weekly and still face economic hardship, causing considerable stress to family relationships and limiting the effectiveness of educational initiatives for their children. Reducing the hours parents must work to support their families would allow them more time to nurture and support their children's educational and social development. Our support for a $15/hour wage is based largely upon the living wage calculator developed by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is supported by fair market rental costs developed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Housing costs in Maryland range from about $650 in Cumberland to $1560 in Columbia, and more than 80% of Maryland's population live in the Baltimore and Washington areas, at the higher end of that range.

The minimum wage was originally established by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The minimum wage was intended to provide a wage that would enable a full-time worker to support a family at a level that meets basic needs and avoids economic hardship. As noted above, our proposed wage of $15/hour would not entirely accomplish that goal, but would reverse the trend of growing poverty among full time workers. The current minimum wage of $7.25/hr yields an annual income of $15,080 for a full time worker, which is just below the official poverty line for a family of two. In reality, that $15,080 is only 108% of the cost of housing alone in the Baltimore area. According to census data, the poverty rate has risen from 11.5% in 1978 to 15% in 2012, in spite of the very limited measures currently used to asses poverty. While legislative proposals on the state and federal levels acknowledge the need to increase the minimum wage, the current wage goal of $10.10/hour offers far too little, far too late. A minimum wage of $10.10 will not support an individual in most of Maryland, leaving individuals and families at the lower end of the income scale dependent upon government assistance, and in some cases without shelter and adequate food. Such government assistance is in reality a support for those businesses that continue to pay their employees less than needed even for the most basic living expenses.

When compared to worker productivity, the minimum wage has been falling behind almost since its origination. The Maryland Green Party, guided by our key values which include social justice and community-based economics, supports the establishment of a living wage in the state of Maryland and nation-wide. Relying upon an insufficient minimum wage established by the federal government is not just, nor does it satisfy the needs of Marylanders.