ANNAPOLIS — Workers from across Maryland gathered in Annapolis on March 13 to urge Governor Larry Hogan to reconsider his proposed $12.10 minimum wage instead of the $15 minimum wage passed by the Maryland House of Delegates.
“We need our legislators to understand we are serious,” said Steven Merrick, an organizer with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest healthcare union in the U.S. “There are so many people who are working 40 hours plus a week, and they’re making crap wages.”
About 100 workers from the Fight For $15 Coalition as well as the 1199SEIU United Health Workers Union marched to the State House and the Governor’s Mansion holding signs, blowing whistles and chanting “No justice no peace” and “When our paychecks are under attack what do we do? Stand up, fight back” while Merrick and a few other organizers led the group.
“The cost of living is going up,” said Gloria Waters, who works at the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus. “They are not making more money to pay for the rent and food and stuff like that and healthcare. And half the people don’t have insurance. Some people are living paycheck to paycheck and might have not to pay one bill to pay for another bill. So that’s why we’re out here, to get $15 for everybody, not just one person.”
The minimum wage bill that passed in the House of Delegates last week said that the state minimum wage would be raised by one dollar each year until 2023 when it reaches $15. The income for tipped workers would also increase gradually until reaching $15 by 2026.
While many workers were behind the bill, some business owners and organizations that represent them such as the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Maryland were concerned about how businesses would be affected by the increase.
The Senate Finance Committee then passed an amended version where the $15 wage would be reached by 2028 for businesses with up to 14 employees with tipped workers excluded.
Finally, Hogan proposed that instead of $15, the wage be raised to $12.10 per hour by 2022 and recommended that any minimum wage increases after 2022 could only take place if the surrounding states have a minimum wage that is at least 80 percent of Maryland’s minimum wage.
“As a high cost of living state, there is no place in Maryland where a single full-time working adult can pay for basic needs on less than $15 per hour today,” said Fight For $15 Coalition leader Ricarra Jones. “The state’s current $10.10 minimum wage isn’t working for Maryland households, and the governor’s proposal does nothing to change their fate.”
When the group reached the State House, Nijah Cooper, a member of the Fight For $15 Coalition, read a letter that the group planned to send to Hogan.
“The workers, laborers and families in our state of Maryland are sick of being underpaid and overworked,” she read. “The cost of living in the state you were elected to govern is higher than what thousands of us working people are being paid.
“It is immoral for any human being made to work so hard and still have no way to make ends meet. We need $15 today and nothing less. Too many of us workers are earning poverty wages despite working a full-time job because the minimum wage is too low.”
Those in attendance gave many reasons why a $15 minimum wage would be more beneficial to not only workers but small businesses, communities and the state economy.
“It makes more sense to raise Maryland’s minimum wage to $15 an hour because it would give our working families money they need to take care of themselves and their families, but also it gives us buying power to go out and stimulate our economy,” Merrick said. “We can use that money to go out and support the small businesses.”
He added that when workers are able to make a living wage, they are more likely to stay at their job so businesses will not have to spend money on hiring which also saves money.
Lisa Williams, who is from Baltimore, said the $15 minimum wage would have an impact on communities, especially low poverty communities, by lowering crime rates. Parents will be able to provide better and supervise their children, and in turn, the children will not see their parents suffer and resort to going out on the streets to steal and sell drugs, she said.
“That $15 means more to the working body of people than what they are looking at,” Williams said. “It will solve a lot of issues. The governor says he wants to cut back on our crime, then show it.”
About 90 percent of workers affected by low minimum wage is at least 20 years old, and three out of five work full time, according to the Maryland Center on Economic Policy. Women, workers of color and veterans would benefit most from a $15 minimum wage.
“Overall, our hardworking laborers in the state of Maryland need $15,” Merrick said. “All workers. Every worker. No one should be left out. Not one tipped worker should be left out. not one farmer, agricultural worker and Not one healthcare worker.”