The Gaithersburg City Council is likely to follow the county’s lead on the minimum wage businesses should pay their employees, after a discussion Monday night.
In November 2013, the Montgomery County Council agreed to raise its minimum wage gradually to $11.50 per hour by 2017.
Maryland lawmakers voted to increase the state’s minimum wage as well, elevating it to $10.10 per hour after a series of phases by 2018.
At the meeting, Councilman Henry Marraffa was the only councilman who thought the city should follow the state’s rate.
Councilwoman Cathy Drzyzgula said she believed the county “overreached” with its raise to $11.50, but that it would be a mess for employees to earn different wages simply based on the location of their job or work site.
She referred to the fact that 82 percent of people working in Gaithersburg do not live in the city, meaning that they would earn a lower wage than colleagues and neighbors who work in other areas of the county.
“It made no sense to me to have all of these people who lived outside the city to come into the city and make less money because of that,” she said.
Mayor Sidney Katz, who also supported the county’s wage, said it would confuse businesses to navigate through two minimum wage policies within the county.
Councilman Ryan Spiegel said he worried that if the city chose to opt out, it could become one of the only jurisdictions within the county to have a lower wage, therefore attracting an undesirable amount of minimum wage jobs.
“I really don’t want Gaithersburg to end up becoming the magnet or vacuum in the middle of the county for all the lowest wage jobs,” he said.
Even though he thinks the state’s minimum wage level is better, Councilman Jud Ashman said he doesn’t think it’s practical for the city to opt out and that it “could lead to some serious unforeseen circumstances.”
Conversely, Marraffa said if the city chooses the county’s wage, it will be difficult for businesses to absorb the extra payroll cost. He said companies will have to decide whether to pay employees less or hire fewer people.
“The people who get hurt are the ones who we’re trying to protect — the people who are at the lower end of the scale because you can’t afford them,” he said.
Hughes Network Systems, an international broadband satellite services provider with an office in Gaithersburg, submitted testimony to the council explaining that the company would suffer if it had to pay the county’s wage.
“The Company does not have the ability to raise its prices to offset the impact of cost increases without placing itself at a competitive disadvantage,” the testimony stated.