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Maryland politicians push minimum wage hike


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Photo by Tauren Dyson. Valarie Long, of SEIU; Christine Owens, of National Employment Law Project; Brittob Loftin of Restaurant Opportunities Centers, and David Cooper, of Economic Policy Institute, speak at the town hall on minimum wage hosted by Rep. Donna Edwards.

Photo by Tauren Dyson. Valarie Long, of SEIU; Christine Owens, of National Employment Law Project; Brittob Loftin of Restaurant Opportunities Centers, and David Cooper, of Economic Policy Institute, speak at the town hall on minimum wage hosted by Rep. Donna Edwards.

Published on: Wednesday, September 04, 2013

By Tauren Dyson

Should the federal minimum wage be raised to $10.10 an hour?

Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., said it should be. At a late August town hall in Fort Washington, Edwards brought together economic and labor experts to talk about the value of raising the federal minimum wage from the current rate of $7.25 an hour. Some experts on hand argued that raising the minimum wage could help stimulate the economy by giving struggling families more money to spend.

“If you raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, about 30 million workers would get a raise,” said David Cooper, Economic Policy Institute economic analyst. “About 500,000 (workers) here in Maryland would get a raise from that.”

A bill was introduced earlier in the year in Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Some Maryland legislators at the town hall were confident that the state would reach that goal before the federal increase.

“We’re going to raise the minimum wage in Maryland next year. ... We’re going to get it passed,” Delegate Aisha Braveboy said. “Maryland must be a leader.”

Chanelle Mickell is the campus director with Maryland Working Families, a grassroots organization formed by labor unions to combat economic injustice. She and her group came out in full force to the town hall, gathering signatures to support their push for a bill that would to increase the state minimum to $10.10 an hour and allow indexing to grow with inflation. Currently, Maryland’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

“Any number of economists can give you a plethora of statistics to show why it would help our economy,” Mickell said. “It’s really sad that our government has dropped the ball on advocating for the middle and lower-middle class, who is inherently affected by a low wage.”

However, some opponents think raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would have a detrimental effect on low-wage workers.

“Common sense and logic indicate that raising the cost of labor will reduce employment and employment opportunities in the future,” said Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Businesses in a Forbes article from earlier this year.

If an employer must pay its workers a higher minimum wage, that employer would likely have to cut employees from its staff, according to Dunkelberg.

“Raising the cost of labor raises the incentive for employers to find ways to use less labor … this is but one of the poorly designed policies that are created by politicians who have little or no understanding of how business works,” Dunkelberg wrote in Forbes.

But some economic experts think that the only way for low-pay workers to even get close to making a livable wage is for a federal mandate to occur.

“Unfortunately, right now, workers don’t have a lot of leverage. They don’t have a lot of bargaining power,” Cooper said. “The only thing you can do … is to try and raise wages through a legislation by raising the minimum wage.”

Currently, there are 19 states with minimum wages higher than the federal rate of $7.25, with Washington State leading the pack at $9.19 an hour. Twenty-two states, including Maryland, equal the federal number and four states fall below it. Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee have no state-required minimum wages.

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