Montgomery County councilman proposes higher minimum wage

Montgomery County councilman proposes higher minimum wage

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, September 3, 2013 — This week Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At Large) of Takoma Park proposed an increase in MontgomeryCounty’s minimum wage, from the current rate of $7.25 to $12 per hour. Before the current rate was enacted by the Federal Labor Standards Act, the county’s minimum wage was set at $6.55 per hour.

Councilman Erlich’s proposal would apply to all MontgomeryCounty businesses. According to U.S. Census Data, Montgomery County’s median household income from 2007 to 2011 was $95,660, with 6.3 percent of the county population living below the poverty level.

According to the population estimate conducted by the Census for the same time period, the number of impoverished in the county stood at approximately 63,296 individuals. Despite that ranking, in 2011, the Washington Post ranked MontgomeryCounty as the 10th “Highest Income” county in the United States.

“Persistent poverty is the reflection of the persistence of low wages in our economy,” said Councilmember Elrich. “We have tens of thousands of working people who, despite getting up and going to work every day, do not earn wages that are sufficient to lift them out of poverty.“

“The wages that these people earn are below the level of income needed to be self-sufficient. As a result, working people are forced, at best, to rely on the government to provide programs to support their housing, medical and food needs. At worst, people simply do without adequate housing, health care and nutrition.“

“To be blunt, the low wages paid by some employers have created a class of citizens who are dependent on government services to make ends meet and those same employers have effectively shifted a portion of what should be their labor costs onto taxpayers—both individual taxpayers as well as the majority of private sector companies who pay a living wage or higher.”

The Councilman intends to introduce the proposal on September 10th, 2013 when the summer break session concludes. At this time, no co-sponsors to the measure have been announced.

The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce has opposed similar wage increases in the past, saying “Creating artificial, upward pressure on wage rates is risky at a time when our economic recovery is fragile.  It is particularly harmful to small businesses which have the least ability to absorb increased overhead.

“The extent to which jobs are lost or job creation is delayed will have the greatest impact on the least skilled workers with the fewest options.  Increasing the minimum wage not only affects those earning this lowest wage rate, but also creates pressure to raise the next highest wage scales.”

Responding to a previous attempt to the raise the minimum wage in the county to $9.75 the Chamber said “There is no justification to impose a wage rate that is 35 percent higher than the federal minimum wage.

“Increasing the cost of business operations by artificially increasing wages is likely one of the last things Maryland should be contemplated during this ‘jobless recovery.’”

Councilman Elrich’s proposal would raise the minimum wage approximately 65 percent above the federal minimum wage.

The measure is one of many wage increase proposals in Maryland, as state Governor Martin O’Malley last week proposed raising the minimum wage “for every mom and dad that’s willing to work hard and play by the rules.” There is significant backing for the idea, as many of Maryland’s top Democrat politicians have all supported either the Governor’s proposal, or other competing measures to increase the minimum wage above $10 per hour.

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation has posted data regarding Maryland’s minimum wage rates, dating back to 1968, when it was set at $1.00 per hour.

The two rates shown in 1968, and 1976 reflect the former multiple-track minimum-wage system.
1968 $1.00 & $1.15
1970 $1.30
1972 $1.60
1976 $2.20 & $2.30
1979 $2.90
1980 $3.10
1981 $3.35
1991 $3.80
1992 $4.25
1997 $4.75
1998 $5.15
2007 $6.15*
2008 $6.55*
2009 $7.25*
*Maryland follows the higher federal minimum
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Rahat Husain
Rahat Husain has been working as a columnist since 2013 when he joined the Communities. With an interest in America and Islam, Rahat is a prolific writer on contemporary and international issues. In addition to writing for the Communities, Rahat Husain is an Attorney based in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. He is the Director of Legal and Policy Affairs at UMAA Advocacy. For the past six years, Mr. Husain has worked with Congressmen, Senators, federal agencies, think tanks, NGOs, policy institutes, and academic experts to advocate on behalf of Shia Muslim issues, both political and humanitarian. UMAA hosts one of the largest gatherings of Shia Ithna Asheri Muslims in North America at its annual convention.