Minimum Wage

Hundreds of minimum wage and tipped workers in Maryland have come to Annapolis this month to ask lawmakers to raise their wages to $15 an hour. But it is unlikely everyone will see an increase in their paychecks as lawmakers began chipping away at the bill in the House of Delegates this week.

ANNAPOLIS — Thea Bryan, 49, remembers the eviction notice.

She was working part time as a bartender in downtown Bethesda while completing a required unpaid internship for her Master of Social Work degree. At first, she was making $100 to $200 a night from her three shifts, but when customers stopped coming in, her paychecks plummeted to $50 or less.

Bryan makes only $3.63 an hour before tips, but it is difficult to get a higher-paying office job with her class and internship schedule. She relies on federal food assistance for herself and her son, and when her paycheck declined unexpectedly, she also fell short on her $1,800 monthly rent.

“I did make the decision to go back to school for an advanced degree. ... No one forced me into this situation, but I went back into bartending because of the flexibility,” said Bryan, who eventually paid the past-due rent with her student loan money.

Bryan is among the hundreds of minimum wage and tipped workers in Maryland to come to Annapolis this month to ask lawmakers to raise their wages to $15 an hour. But it is unlikely everyone will see an increase to their paychecks as lawmakers began chipping away at the bill in the House of Delegates this week.

Among the cuts was a decision by the House Economic Matters Committee to strike a phased-in wage increase for tipped workers. Starting in 2020, the workers would have seen their base pay jump to $5.25 an hour and increase annually to $15 by 2026, while still allowing tips.

The committee received testimony in support of leaving tipped workers out of the $15 minimum wage change from business owners and some service workers in the industry. Among them was Kelsey Fendlay, who lives in Westminster and has been in the food service industry for 10 years.

She makes between $35 and $40 an hour, after tips, as a server at a restaurant that caters to an upper middle-class clientele. Fendlay said she has built a career around anticipating clients’ needs. She strongly disagreed that all minimum wage workers should be entitled to $15 an hour.

“I don’t believe a lot of people deserve to be handed $15,” Fendlay said.

However, it is dangerous to assume that all women working in the food service industry have the same experience and opportunities as Fendlay, said Diana Ramirez, a policy advocate for the Restaurant Opportunities Center.

Ramirez advocated for Maryland to adopt “one fair wage,” which would set the same minimum wage for tipped and non-tipped workers in the state. It’s an economic justice issue, she said, and it helps protect women, who often fill low-paying restaurant jobs.

“When you tell women, ‘I’ll only pay you $3.63 and you have to make the rest on the customer’s whim,’ they have to put up with customer behavior,” which could include sexual harassment that the server does not report because they need the tip, Ramirez said.

By not tying wages to the customers, then servers and restaurants are able to better set a standard of acceptable behavior, Ramirez said.

County choice

There are growing concerns in the less populated areas of the state, however, that a $15 minimum wage may not be appropriate for all counties.

In western Maryland, some towns are only a few miles from Pennsylvania, where the minimum wage is $7.25, and a short distance from West Virginia, which has a minimum wage of $8.75.

“Fifteen dollars would decimate the economy in rural areas,” said Del. Wayne Hartman (R-Wicomico & Worcester) as he introduced an amendment to the minimum wage bill on the floor of the House on Wednesday.

His amendment would divide the state into two tiers with Baltimore city, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties moving to a $15 minimum wage, and the others staying at $10.10. Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington) also proposed a separate amendment to allow counties to set their own minimum wage. Both amendments failed.

All three of Frederick County’s Republican delegates voted in support of the amendments, as did Del. Ken Kerr (D-Frederick), who supported Hartman’s tiered minimum wage approach. Kerr explained he wants the bill to pass, and the amendments he voted for would raise the minimum wage in a way more acceptable to his constituents.

“I sympathize with my fellow delegates who are in rural areas and in areas where neighboring states have much lower minimums,” Kerr said by email later on Wednesday. “The convenience for residents in these areas being able to cross state lines — often just a few miles away — and access goods and services at a lower cost, has the potential to do harm to the businesses and workers in these areas.”

Ricarra Jones, who is the policy director of the health care union 1199SEIU that is a main supporter of raising the minimum wage to $15, pushed back on the notion that Maryland would be at a competitive disadvantage if it had a minimum wage approximately double that of neighboring states.

“In most cases, most people aren’t going to leave Maryland to work for half,” Jones said.

Loss of business

The potential loss of business from the higher compensation costs of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, however, was one of the reasons Del. Jesse Pippy (R-Frederick & Carroll) did not plan to vote in support of the bill.

An adult day care center in Frederick County that receives the majority of its funding through Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements set by the federal government contacted Pippy and asked him to oppose the bill. The business may have to reduce benefits or lay off employees in order to meet the proposed wage requirements, Pippy said.

As currently written, the bill would raise the minimum wage to:

  • $11 per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2020.
  • $11.75 per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2021.
  • $12.50 per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2022.
  • $13.25 per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2023.
  • $14 per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2024.
  • $15 per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2025.

Some supporters of raising the minimum wage — including Sen. Ron Young (D-Frederick) — say the bill does not go far enough, because $15 is still not a livable wage. At 40 hours a week, a person making a $15 an hour would make $600 a week before taxes.

“I hear the argument the other side is making, however, the minimum wage is not meant to be a livable wage,” Pippy said. “We do our best to provide opportunity for folks, a competitive job market where they have more options [and] jobs that pay different amounts.”

The best way to keep Maryland businesses competitive is to leave the free market alone and allow workers to move from low-paying jobs to higher-paying opportunities, he said. He did this himself — moving up from delivering car parts and cooking fries to working at a bank.

As the owner of a law firm in Emmitsburg, Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick & Carroll) said raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would personally prohibit him from hiring college students in the summer to get experience working in a law firm.

Cox has hired up to six students at a time, and they have worked for less than $15 an hour, he said.

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce has also opposed the proposed increase to $15 due to its potential negative effects on businesses in the state. More than 100 of its members wrote or provided oral testimony in opposition to the bill, said Sam Schlaich, a policy analyst with the chamber.

The House Economic Matters Committee’s amendments improved the bill, but there are still changes that need to be done, he said. The chamber is waiting to see how the Senate Finance Committee amends the bill and what happens in the Senate itself.

“We’re not against people getting $15, but when you legislate it, you have to look at the peripheral effects,” Schlaich said.

Follow Samantha Hogan on Twitter: @SAHogan.

Samantha Hogan is the state house, environment, agriculture and energy reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

(46) comments

mrnatural1

Story time continued...

My former employer, Metro, is socialistic in some ways, and pays all employees essentially the same -- +/-15-20%.

When I started there as a technician in 1983, Metro was paying literally double what private industry (IBM, Xerox, etc) was offering.

There were several reasons for that:

1) Every 3 months (later every 6) employees' work location; shift; and/or days off could (and often would) change. It's hard to buy and house and start a family when you have no stability. In the spring an employee might be working day shift in NoVA; in the summer, midnight shift in D.C.; in the fall, evening shift at Glenmont in MoCo.

2) No holidays off, unless they happened to fall on your day off.

3) "Unpleasant" working conditions -- outside in all conditions, in tunnels with water of unknown origin dripping on you.

4) Danger. A high percentage of employees are killed on the job. Often it is at least partly, if not entirely, management's fault -- but they have immunity. They can literally kill people and walk away.

Anyway, after working there a while, I realized that the station managers, bus drivers, and train operators, were paid essentially the same as we were -- much more actually, including OT.

At first that bothered me. I knew that in private industry techs and mechanics might make 50 to 100% more than operators. Then, after an initial bout of pettiness, I began thinking about it. Clearly advocating for my coworkers in "Operations" to be paid less would be counter productive and not make me any friends. I considered organizing the techs to demand more pay, but a) we already were making about double what we would 'on the outside' and b) I discovered that all pay at Metro is tied to the "Top Operator Rate". In short, Metro cannot give one group a raise without giving a raise across the board.

Needless to say, nothing changed, and as far as I know, it's still the same.

The point of my story is, instead of being resentful that people with less education/skills/training are being paid close to the same amount we are, it's better to be happy for them and try to improve our own situation if possible. I could not do that, for the reasons stated, but most people are not working under a contract that ties their pay to that of those in another dept. Also, most people are not in an unusual situation where they are already making about double the going rate (even if it is for legit reasons).

Don't tear others down, pull yourself up.


mrnatural1

Story Time!

I once knew a girl, or should I say, she once knew me...

A former girlfriend of mine (I'll call her Ann) lived in MoCo. She was divorced and had a 2 year old son. Her ex refused to pay child support.

Ann had a high school diploma but no college degree. The best she could hope for was a minimum wage job with no benefits. She was not a lazy person. She wanted to work but it made more sense for her to accept public assistance.

Maybe MoCo is an exception, but she was MUCH better off on welfare than she would have been working -- even at double the minimum wage. Ann's benefits included:

* A modest but clean and safe apartment in an ordinary complex (not "public housing").
* She had her own (older) car which she was able to keep.
* Some cash (not a whole lot, maybe $200 per month).
* Food stamps (now called SNAP).
* WIC food and other supplies.
* Medical and dental care for herself and her son.

Ann hated being on welfare. It embarrassed her. She desperately wanted to support herself, but it would have been grossly irresponsible of her to accept a low paying job and give up what she had.

She did eventually find a job driving a dump truck that paid about 3x minimum wage and offered benefits, so she was able to get off welfare, but not everyone is so lucky.

If we want people to work, then working should provide a better lifestyle than welfare. It is unrealistic to expect people to get up and go to work each day if they would be better off on public assistance.

Instead of being petty, we should welcome a living wage for the benefits it provides for society.

mrnatural1

Here's a 'living wage calculator' from MIT:

http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/24021

You'll see that for FredCo the true living wage is $17.54 per hour -- that's for ONE person.

One person with:

* 1 child = $31.36
* 2 children = $35.72
* 3 children = $44.39

In short, children are EXPENSIVE.

There are various combinations of adults and children, and the costs are all itemized.

Mickey7

[thumbup] mr. Natural thank you for the facts

elymus43

One nice thing, more people will start eating in their homes in the future The restaurant people will just pass the high wages on by raising their prices on the menu. If the $15.00 per hour is passed, then the customers should not TIP.

shiftless88

"When we stop allowing these ten year old kids to work ten hour days at a nickel an hour it is the kids and their families that will suffer" said the business owners when child labor laws were discussed. Sure.

mrnatural1

[thumbup][thumbup] shiftless!

walter3rd

And it failed at a tech company too, for different reasons. Many articles on this, here is one. https://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/the-70000-minimum-wage-experiment-reveals-a-dark-truth.html/

walter3rd

This experiment of doing away with tips in favor of higher minimum wage (and higher menu prices) has been tried and failed. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/13/business/joes-crab-shack-tried-getting-rid-of-tips-it-didnt-last-long.html

rbtdt5

I believe where this is going to hurt the most is kids and disable people. People that want to work or maybe even need to work to make some extra money but don't need to make a "living wage". If I can hire someone to wipe tables and clean floors for a few dollars an hour and it helps them great. Now if I have to pay $15, they better know how to run a register and cook as well. I was just reading that Wal-Mart is going to be getting rid of a lot of disabled workers to hire more skilled ones at door. $15 an hour is going to come at a cost.

shiftless88

The refutation to your argument is that kids and disabled people aren't the ones complaining about the change. This is like the net neutrality rules where the government said "we need to make the changes to protect consumers" but it was the consumers who were against the change and the industry who was for it.

jerseygrl42

$30 K annually to flip burgers , yeah that makes sense

hayduke2

It does, that amounts to 577 a week before taxes. After taxes, it is much less. What happened to all you folks on the conservative side that want able bodied people to work and get off of assistence? Can't wait for your thoughtful, measured response.

fisherkid89

Im for it if they raise everyone else's pay accordingly. Some people with 4 year college degrees do not make 15 dollars an hour starting out, and some barely make more than 15 dollars an hour. I believe 15 dollars an hour is the bottom level for skilled labor/ college educated. High school kids and fast food workers do not deaerve 15 dollars an hour. Minimum skills equals minimum wage. 10 dollars an hour is already to high for minimum wage. Minimum wage is not suopose to be a liveable wage. If you are an able body adult and cannot find a job that pays more than minimum wage then you failed in life.

jwhamann

That’s quite a mean to say. I just work part-time, but my expenses are very low. Single, no kids and I live my life with no need for a car. Jealous?

mrnatural1

fisherkid,

You said, "If you are an able body adult and cannot find a job that pays more than minimum wage then you failed in life."

That is a truly horrible thing to say.

There are plenty of people who, through absolutely no fault of their own, were born mentally disabled. They did not "fail", they were dealt a bad hand. Should they be sentenced to a life of poverty -- working hard every day, 40+ hours per week, for not even enough to get by?

The big picture here is that the 1% -- more like the 0.1% -- have us all fighting each other over scraps. $10-$20-$30 per hour is nothing compared to what they make. They're laughing at us.

Instead of debating whether $15 per hour is too much (it's not, it should be even higher) we should be advocating for the bottom say 50% to earn more -- but especially the lowest 20%.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the free market, and people with more skills and/or education making more money. A doctor should earn more than a nurse, and a nurse should earn more than an orderly. But the way to achieve that isn't to hold or pull others down, but to raise everyone up.

Everyone who gets up everyday and goes to work and does their best deserves a dignified life. Not a McMansion with his and hers BMWs, but at least the basic necessities. There is plenty of wealth in America to allow for that baseline. Then the pay scale can increase from there.

So the mentally challenged person who is pushing shopping carts makes (say) $15/hour (which is low for our area) and everyone else makes something more than that, accordingly.

hayduke2

Agree - sure wish people would see a bigger picture and not make judgements based on emotion only.

hayduke2

fisher -read https://www.thebillfold.com/2015/07/it-was-always-supposed-to-be-a-living-wage/ or google " was the minimum wage meant to be a livable wage " and you might be surprised.

mrnatural1

Excellent article hayduke, thank you!

Love the FDR quote:

"In his 1933 address following the passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act, President Franklin D. Roosevelt noted that “no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”

“By ‘business’ I mean the whole of commerce as well as the whole of industry; by workers I mean all workers, the white collar class as well as the men in overalls; and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level — I mean the wages of decent living,” he stated."

DickD

Minimum wages is good, but there are problems with it. The sample here is waitresses, most waitresses do far better than $15/hr. And does this mean you would be expected to still tip? I think not.

Then there are the buffets, where a waitress or someone shows you your seat, gives you a glass of water, takes your drink order and disappears. Tell me how that warrants $15/hr plus tips. It will not happen.

hayduke2

Oh, and I forgot destroy and eliminate unions so there can be no middle class...

DickD

Unions have been a big part of it. They stabilize prices and help to eliminate discrimination. The problem today is everybody wants to be independent and not pay union dues. They get what they deserve, Hay.

mrnatural1

I must disagree Dick.

While it's true that in some cases people vote against joining a union, many large corporations -- like Walmart and Amazon -- strongly discourage union organizing with tactics that are borderline illegal -- and sometimes ARE illegal.

Many people would LOVE to have a union represent them but their employer essentially forbids it.

I'm fully aware of all of the criticisms of unions -- some are very valid. They can make businesses inefficient if they become too powerful.

The flip side of that coin is that when management gets too powerful we end up with exploitation -- low wages; long hours; no/little vacation time; no sick leave; no health insurance; no job security; no retirement plan -- and you can forget a defined benefit pension.

When corporations have too much power, things get very ugly. There needs to be a balance, and that balance can be maintained by negotiating in good faith and relying on neutral arbitration.

At the end of the day, workers and management are all on the same team. Both are necessary. Both want the company to be successful.

Companies should be forbidden from preventing their employees from unionizing. If they are treating them right, they have nothing too worry about.

DickD

It is against the law for companies to interfere with union organization votes. But it's still done and usually hard to prove. .Hard to prove because every company has some lower wage employees that will side with the company against union organization for a number of reasons.

hayduke2

Dick- I think your statement about wanting to be independent is something that is the result of corporate and management skillfully manipulating folks over time and making unions "bad." An no, I am not overlooking some of the excesses of unions but, overall, unions did a lot to give folks a middle class existence.

DickD

I agree, Hay.

mrnatural1

Exactly hayduke2.

The plan continues to work very well -- employers get workers to fight among themselves and tear each other down:

* "Those union workers get paid too much!"

* "$15 per hour?! I have a college degree and I don't make much more than that! Those who aren't as smart as I am and/or did not have the same opportunities should SUFFER!"

That's the ugly side of human nature, on display for all to see.

Our better instincts cause us to be happy for people who are doing relatively well and work on improving our situation also.

$15 per hour is NOTHING! It's barely enough to live on in this area. The average rent for a 1 br apt is now well over $1,000 -- maybe $1,200. $15/hour is $600/week, gross -- maybe $400 after deductions. So the person making $15/hour has to work 3 weeks just to pay rent for the month?

What is wrong with people that they begrudge someone making a measly $15/hour?

If we want/expect people to get off of welfare and work, then working must result in a better lifestyle than being on public assistance.

For those who are thinking selfishly, and worried about the cost of a burger going up -- labor costs can DOUBLE and because the cost of a fast food sandwich is only about 10% labor, the cost will increase by 10%. Maybe 25-30 whole cents. I think we can handle that.

Finally, the claims about having to fire employees are pure, unadulterated, bs. Those claims imply that business owners are currently employing additional people out of the goodness of their heart! Come on! The truth is that businesses hire only as many people as they need. There will be few if any jobs lost due to a wage increase.

This is all about GREED. Pure and simple. Anyone against $15/hour -- which is not even a living wage -- should be ashamed of themselves.

hayduke2

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Mr N

User1

“Minimum Wage” is not meant to be a “Living Wage”. It is a starting, unskilled labor wage. It is a base wage. If you raise the dishwashers wage by 50% don’t you think the cook and chefs will demand it also? Then what? Small businesses will then have to pass on the costs by raising prices or cutting the number of employees or their hours. And again, I have seen in Virginia employees asking for reduced hours because they are making too much getting higher wages to keep their benefits.

des21

You really think unions are the key to a middle class lifestyle in America in 2019? Wow.

hayduke2

No, I think the demise of unions is why many who previously had a middle class existence are struggling. I know you are not a union fan but I bet you take advantage of their work for better pay, sick leave, etc.

DickD

Des is the perfect example of someone that thinks that he is too good to be a union member.

des21

They are a pyramid scheme.

Johndoe1

If liberals understood things like inflation they wouldn’t suggest something as crazy as a $15 minimum wage. If you raise the minimum wage then the cost of things like living will also go up which will actually increase the poverty rate. And by raising the minimum wage to $15 is a slap to the face to people who worked hard to get a raise and now all the sudden they are gonna be minimum wage employees again. So who’s going to regulate the slumlords who overcharge for an apartment? Why is it that they’re going to put the burden on the businesses when the businesses are the providers of these paying jobs, McDonald’s might be able to afford paying people $15 an hour but not a small mom n pop shop. Which that’s what the Democratic Party wants, super poor and super rich, no middle class. Even worst the far left radical democrats want socialism and want us to get in line to get our food like Venezuela.

hayduke2

" Which that’s what the Democratic Party wants, super poor and super rich, no middle class." Hmm, that's why they gave tax breaks to corporations and the super rich, why the current cabinet is comprised of billionaires/millionaires, why the current administration won't take on big pharma, why the national debt is skyrocketing, why they want to eliminate/reduce medicare, etc. What alternative universe do you live in Johndoe?

BunnyLou

You’re listening to CNN again.

des21

Hayduke gets his notes from the MCEA Bunny, not CNN. "Think for myself..." You're funny Hayduke.

hayduke2

Aww des, I know you don't take advantage of the pay raises, sick leave, health care, etc that MCEA or other unions negotiate. You must be on your own pay scale.

Mickey7

Bunny, Listens exclusively to Fox and Rush. des listens exclusively to the voices in his head

gabrielshorn2013

"...why the current administration won't take on big pharma..."

The Department of Health and Human Services has a web page for what they are doing to reduce drug prices.

https://www.hhs.gov/about/leadership/secretary/priorities/drug-prices/index.html

hayduke2

Yep, I sure trust a leader who " is an American politician, lawyer, pharmaceutical lobbyist and former drug company executive" since I'm sure he won't be biased. BTW, why, as a lawyer, was he fired from his court clerk position??? Hmmm....

DickD

Economics 101. Raise the bottom rate and the rest go up too. Not only that, but the costs of goods and services go up too. It is a wage price spiral and not new.

walter3rd

And the menu prices go up. Somebody's gotta pay for it.

mrnatural1

That's correct walter, prices will go up -- but even if labor rates DOUBLE, prices will not, because labor is only part of the cost of providing food, or any other product.

Restaurants around the country have successfully switched to a higher hourly wage/no tipping compensation system. Despite claims that servers will be surly, rude, and go sleep in the corner, it has worked well. Most patrons like the idea of simply paying the check and not worrying about the tip, and servers like the idea of a steady, reliable income.

Menu prices either stayed the same or increased slightly -- but even where they increased, it generally wasn't by more than 15-20%, so the cost to the customer stayed the same.

There will of course be price increases in some cases. Above, I mentioned that if labor rates double, from $7.50 to $15/hour, the cost of a fast food sandwich might go up 25-30 cents. Hopefully most people are willing to pay an extra quarter for a burger so that their fellow Americans can have a slightly more secure -- but still very modest -- life.

mrnatural1

That's a good point Dick.

I wonder how much of an issue it actually is.

It would be interesting to look at other states, or even other countries that have raised their minimum wage significantly and see what happened to the CPI. The article I link to below does just that.

Prices will obviously go up if/when the cost of labor increases. In my hamburger example, the increase is minimal -- ~10% -- because labor represents only about 10% of the cost of the burger. However, labor is a much higher percentage of the cost of services like landscaping, roofing, housekeeping, etc, so those costs would increase much more.

Of course, those at the bottom of the totem pole do not generally pay for services.

Quotes:

"“We stand for a living wage … (one that allows the worker to) secure the elements of a normal standard of living — a standard high enough to make morality possible, to provide for education and recreation, to care for immature members of the family, to maintain the family during periods of sickness, and to permit of reasonable saving for old age.”
President Theodore Roosevelt, addressing a convention of the National Progressive Party, August 6, 1912

~

"“If (a minimum wage increase) means very small increases in prices — that we have heard a good deal about — and in costs — and I believe it does mean increases in both — the American people will accept this as a better answer than denying human beings a decent wage.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson, in a ceremony marking effective date of a minimum wage hike to $1.40 an hour, February 1, 1967

~

"“When you hear folks saying, well, if you raise the minimum wage that’s going to be fewer jobs — it turns out the states that have raised the minimum wage have had faster job growth than the states that haven’t raised the minimum wage.”
President Barack Obama, responding to Republican opposition that effectively stalled his plans for minimum wage increases, October 3, 2014

~

Those quotes can be found here: http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty-and-research/anderson-review/minimum-wage-primer-leamer

That article is very balanced. Actually frustratingly so, because it lays out the arguments on both sides but comes to no conclusion.

hayduke2

User - historically, you are wrong. read https://www.thebillfold.com/2015/07/it-was-always-supposed-to-be-a-living-wage/ or google " was the minimum wage meant to be a livable wage " and you might be surprised.

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