- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Raising voices and raising signs, Gov. Martin O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown promised hundreds huddled Tuesday night on Lawyer’s Mall that Maryland would raise the state’s minimum wage.
“We can do better than that!” Brown (D) yelled repeatedly. “Ten. Ten.”
“Raise the wage!” O’Malley (D) chanted along with the crowd. Maryland currently follows the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
The administration has backed a bill by activists Raise Maryland that would raise the statewide minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2016, index the wage to the rate of inflation and increase wages for tipped workers from 50 percent to 70 percent of the minimum wage.
Maryland might have the most residents with doctorates, the highest median income and be ranked No. 1 in innovation, but the governor said 21 states have higher minimum wages.
O’Malley said raising the wage is an opportunity to make a difference for workers, to bring dignity to every individual and dignity to their work.
Pascal Nji of Prince George’s County said a higher minimum wage would mean the money to feed his wife and two young children.
An immigrant from Cameroon, where he worked as an insurance consultant, Nji said he has been working low-wage temporary jobs, making an average of $8 per hour.
Some days he cannot afford to eat breakfast or have enough fare to ride the bus, his only means of transportation, he said.
If Maryland had indexed its wage to inflation years ago, it would be just more than $10 per hour today, O’Malley said. If the minimum wage kept pace with worker productivity, it would be $20; and if it kept pace with the wealth of America’s top 1 percent, it would be $273, he said.
Fifty years ago President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty, Brown said. “We are still waging that war.”
Not everyone favors raising the wage.
Senate Minority Leader Sen. David R. Brinkley (R-Frederick) said he opposes increasing the wage because it could put rural regions at a disadvantage competitively and cost some workers a job.
While Brinkley said no one can live at minimum wage, he said raising the wage does not improve the situations of workers who make the minimum, as would job training, which would allow them promotions.
In Maryland, the wage war moves to the General Assembly.
In Montgomery County, the battle was fought in the fall, when the county raised its local wage to $11.50 per hour by 2017. Prince George’s County did the same.
Threats of the state overturning the local wages still loom, but lawmakers like Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery), have vowed to oppose any efforts to reverse the actions of Montgomery and Prince George’s.