Annapolis, MD – Bill sponsors, Maryland Fight for $15 coalition members and other stakeholders, including workers and small business owners, discussed their plans for a bill to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2023 in Maryland. The bill will be introduced in the General Assembly this week.

“The time to take action against the growing concentration of poverty in Maryland is now,” said bill sponsor Senator Cory McCray (District 45, Baltimore City). “Every day that the federal government has failed to act, it has become harder for families to earn a sustainable wage, afford the costs of quality healthcare and ensure that they are able to retire with dignity. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to pass the ‘Fight for $15’ bill to give more Marylanders a fighting chance at economic prosperity.”

The Maryland Minimum Wage Bill is also sponsored by Delegate Diana Fennell (District 47A, Prince George’s County) and has bipartisan support. It is a top priority for the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch have also said they want to raise the minimum wage this session.

Studies show that increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour will help 573,000 workers.

“Close to 600,000 hardworking people in our state deserve fair pay so they don’t have to decide between eating, paying rent or paying for child care,” said Delegate Fennell. “We need to put workers first and advance the Fight for $15 campaign. It’s an honor for me to take up this fight with Senator McCray.”

Advocates for the bill say that raising the wage would help lift thousands of families out of poverty, create new customers and revenues for local businesses and strengthen neighborhoods.

The bill was introduced in the 2018 Maryland General Assembly but stalled. Advocates refer to the 2019 legislation as a “Clean 15” bill as it does not include loopholes that would leave struggling workers behind or block the state’s higher-cost regions from raising minimum wages in the future. The 2019 bill would:

  • Gradually raise Maryland’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023 and automatically adjust it each year after that to keep up with the rising cost of living – as more than 16 states and the District of Columbia currently do.
  • Preserve the current Maryland law that allows communities to raise the wage higher in the future – and oppose corporate lobbyists’ push to “preempt” local power to take progressive action to serve local needs.
  • Include younger workers under age 20 – who are disproportionately from low-income households and half of whom are struggling to work their way through college facing spiraling debt.
  • Include a raise for tipped workers who currently can be paid as little as $3.63 an hour in Maryland. The last time the legislature raised the minimum wage, it froze the tipped wage at that rate (previously it had been 50 percent of the state’s full minimum wage).
  • Remove exemptions in current law for agricultural workers in rural parts of the state and ensure they are entitled to at least the state minimum wage.

“Labor is labor, whether done in a field or in a factory – and every worker deserves to get paid a decent wage for their work, regardless of if they live in rural or urban Maryland,” said Jake Burdett, an affected worker in rural Maryland. “Of the 24 counties in Maryland, 18 are rural counties. We can’t forget minimum wage workers in 75 percent of the state who need to provide for their families just as badly as those in the six urban counties.”

According to the Maryland Center on Economic Policy, 90 percent of affected workers are at least 20 years old, and three out of five work full time. Workers who would benefit from a raise in the minimum wage include one in four Maryland working women, one in four Maryland workers of color and 23,000 veterans.

“This legislation is long overdue,” said Ricarra Jones of the Maryland Fight For $15 campaign. “Despite Maryland’s strong economy, working families across the state are struggling – nearly 80 percent are living paycheck to paycheck, especially women of color. This year, we have an opportunity to pass a strong, clean bill that will close a gender- and race-based pay gap and improve educational and health outcomes for kids across our state.”

Recent polling shows that Marylanders across the state support taking action: A September 2018 Goucher poll found that 71 percent of Marylanders of both political parties support raising the minimum wage to $15 dollars.