Baltimore Legislators Call for a Statewide $15 Minimum Wage

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The year after Mayor Catherine Pugh vetoed a $15 minimum wage for Baltimore, she joins members of the Baltimore City Council to call on the state to pass similar legislation

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Story Transcript

JAISAL NOOR: On Monday February 5th, Baltimore legislators call for the State of Maryland to pass a $15 minimum wage bill by 2023.

MARY PAT CLARK: We already have Montgomery, and Prince George’s, and D.C. neighbors who have $15 bills and laws in place. This will help to cover the entire rest of the state of Maryland in this election, state election year. And that’s one of the reasons it’s a great opportunity.

JAISAL NOOR: Bills have been introduced in both state houses and there’s a public hearing on February 20th. Last June, the mayor vetoed legislation to raise Baltimore’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, breaking a campaign promise to sign such a legislation when it reached her desk. Her argument at the time was that jobs would leave for surrounding jurisdictions, sitting neighboring Virginia and Pennsylvania’s $7.25 minimum wage. I asked her if a similar argument could be made by opponents of a state wide measure? She didn’t really answer my question.

CATHERINE PUGH: Real clear, we’re talking about the five year period, and I think that’s the… If we don’t raise it the federal government is eventually going to raise it anyway. And so, we’ve got to be real about this. We’re talking about a five year period marching toward $15 an hour and as you heard a SEIU say, I mean, some folks really do deserve to make them today, but we’re not worried about people crossing the line, we’re worried about what happens in our own state. This is one of the richest states in America and that’s real. And so, we’re saying corporate tax cuts are give corporations and companies wonderful breaks. And so, we’re saying that the people in our state deserve to be compensated properly.

JAISAL NOOR: Afterwards I ask city councilman Kris Burnett if 15 by 2023 is enough?

KRIS BURNETT: I think it’s a real argument. I mean, at $32,000, it’s certainly, still when we look at people who are living in poverty right now, by 2023, it’s not ideal. But the flip side I’d say, is that for small businesses and medium size businesses, they do need time to adjust. And so, we need time to allow them to phase in, to adjust their business model to fit it. But like I said, it will go up every year hereafter. So, if it passes we’ll finally get to a place that people will make a livable wage.

JAISAL NOOR: Do you think supporters would have a better case if there was a $15 minimum wage in Baltimore and the bill hadn’t been vetoed?

KRIS BURNETT: I think that would be where I want to be. I mean, I was a big supporter of the bill here on the council. Like I mentioned, I represent West Baltimore and I’ve talked to people who live and work in the streets, and work with people in Save Streets programs, and they’ve said, there’s a direct link between economics of Baltimore city and the violence in Baltimore city. And so, I think there is a valid argument to be made that we need to do this quickly, we need to do it now and we should’ve done it last year. But statewide it would be ideal.

JAISAL NOOR: Thanks so much.

KRIS BURNETT: Yeah.

JAISAL NOOR: Check back at therealnews.com for all of our coverage of minimum wage fights across the country and in Maryland. We’ll be covering the public hearings on February 20th. This is Jaisal Noor.