Maryland heading for $15 minimum wage, despite GOP Gov. Hogan
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ANNAPOLIS, Md.—After strong campaigning by Fight for $15 and a Union, the Service Employees, and their allies, Maryland is apparently heading for an increase in the state minimum wage to $15 an hour – despite GOP Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto threat.

That’s because both houses of the Democratic-run, and now notably more-progressive, legislature passed the $15 minimum wage hike by veto-proof margins. The March 18 Senate vote was 32-15 on party lines. The House of Delegates voted for it two weeks before, 96-44.

Maryland would thus join what is now a large number of states, plus major cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Twin Cities, and San Francisco, that have gotten tired of waiting for the GOP-run Congress to raise the federal minimum of $7.25 hourly, and gone ahead and done it themselves. The federal minimum hasn’t budged in a decade.

The catch is the two measures differ in some key respects, including the status of the tipped wage and a slower increase for businesses with fewer than 15 workers. That’s three-fourths of all businesses in the state, Chuck Cook of Fight for 15 wrote. Both bills envision raising the wage in stages, for the large businesses, to $15 by 2025.

But the Senate’s bill would stretch out the hike to 2028 for the small businesses. And it would keep the tipped wage at $3.63 an hour, not raise it to $7.50, as the House does. The federal tipped minimum, $2.13 hourly, hasn’t risen in 25 years. Two-thirds of tipped workers are women.

The tipped wage is the minimum wage for tipped workers, such as restaurant servers. Tips are supposed to make up the difference between the tipped minimum and the state or federal minimum. If that fails, employers are supposed to close the gap, but they often don’t.

“SEIU members have zeroed in on the Maryland capitol in their fight for voting rights and living wages,” Chris Garlock of the Metro D.C. Central Labor Council reported.

“32BJ members, alongside BWI Airport contracted workers, testified for a $15/hour living wage at the State Senate this week. ‘All workers who keep our airports running, clean, and secure deserve living wages,’ the union said.”

The National Women’s Law Center, in committee hearings, told state legislators the Maryland minimum wage hike, from its current $10.10 hourly, would primarily benefit women and people of color. It explained 60 percent of Maryland’s minimum wage workers are female and 70 percent of the women are over 25. One third have kids.

In an alert to his members and allies in Fight for 15, Cook told them to ask senators to oppose “this new amendment to exempt businesses with 15 workers or less from paying the minimum wage” and to raise the tipped workers’ minimum to $7.50. But the Senate passed the small business exemption and didn’t raise the tipped minimum.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.