Annapolis –Progressive Maryland today launched Raise Maryland, a major legislative and grassroots campaign to increase Maryland’s minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour -- the federal minimum wage -- to $10 per hour by 2013. The measure will be co-sponsored by Sen. Robert J. Garagiola and Sen. C. Anthony Muse in the Maryland Senate.
“Here in the richest state in America, Marylanders are struggling. To help working families and boost our state’s economy, we are introducing this measure to raise Maryland’s minimum wage gradually to $10 by 2013,” said Rion Dennis, executive director of Progressive Maryland. “Maryland’s minimum wage is roughly $15,000 per year for a full-time worker and that’s not enough to provide for our families. We’re stuck at the federal minimum wage rate while it’s getting more expensive to provide the basics and our salaries aren’t keeping pace.”
Maryland is ready for an increase – Progressive Maryland today released the results of a poll conducted in December 2010 showing that almost 80 percent of voters support increasing the state’s minimum wage. Support for raising the minimum wage is consistent across income groups. More than half of Marylanders think the state’s economy will be helped by raising the minimum wage. Nearly nine out of 10 Democrats support a raise in the minimum wage, followed by independents and Republicans. Even those who as identify as Tea Party voters supported the increase by 62 percent. And 72 percent of Marylanders are in favor of a raise for tipped workers such as restaurant servers for whom the minimum wage is currently just 50 percent of the full minimum wage, or $3.63 per hour.
“There has never been a better time to raise the minimum wage,” said Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County) and a co-sponsor of the bill. “It’s the right thing to do to help Maryland families and get our state’s economy moving without raising taxes.”
Raising Maryland’s minimum wage will bolster the state’s economic recovery. It is estimated that raising the minimum wage to $10 would create $1 billion in additional spending in Maryland over the following two years. Research shows that low-wage workers use additional wages on immediate needs, paying for food, housing and utilities while also buying goods and services. By conservative estimates, it will raise pay for more than 320,000 working Marylanders.
“Raising the minimum wage makes good long-term business sense,” said John Shepley, co-owner of Emory Knoll Farms in Street, Maryland. “Our entry-level pay is well above the current Maryland minimum wage. This helps keep employee turnover low and productivity high and supports a dedicated workforce that helps our business prosper. A higher minimum wage will boost our economy by giving a much-needed raise to many people most likely to spend it at local businesses.”
The Raise Maryland campaign includes legislative outreach and lobbying in Annapolis as well as an extensive coalition effort and grassroots campaign around the state. Progressive Maryland, along with labor, religious and community partners, is organizing support for raising the minimum wage across the state from the suburbs and the cities to our state’s rural areas. Progressive Maryland is organizing voters, including business owners, with door-to-door canvasses in key parts of the state. Raise Maryland town hall meetings will take place in Charles County, Baltimore City and Baltimore County so that residents can come together and voice their support for increasing the minimum wage.
“Research shows that increasing the minimum wage stimulates consumer spending and helps working families,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC. “The weight of opinion among economists has shifted dramatically toward a belief that the minimum wage improves the lives of low-wage workers without adverse effects. The proposed minimum wage increase will not cost jobs, and will provide a crucial stimulus for the Maryland economy precisely when it needs it the most."
As more families are relying on low-wage jobs, an increase in the minimum wage is critical for both families and the state’s economy. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago estimates that every $1 increase in wages for low-wage workers generates more than $3,500 in new spending over the next year. The Economic Policy Institute found that $5.5 billion in new spending was generated by the 70 cent increase in the federal minimum wage in 2009.
“A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it,” said Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker-Langston, director of the Disciples Justice Action Network and a board member of Let Justice Roll. “In our sacred texts, God demands fair treatment of workers and harshly judges economic injustice. It is immoral that the minimum wage is worth less now than it was the year Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis. It is moral and economically vital that we raise the minimum wage now.”
“A raise in the minimum wage would really help me and my family,” said Jamal Griffin of Baltimore, who struggles to pay child support for his two small children. Jamal delivers pizza for Papa John’s where he earns minimum wage and tips. “My kids are the most important thing in my life and I want to do for them, but that’s hard when I’m only making $7.25 an hour. More money in my paycheck would really make a difference for my kids.”
About Progressive Maryland
Progressive Maryland is a grassroots, nonprofit organization of more than 15,000 members and supporters and over 50 affiliated religious, community, and labor organizations. Through research, public education, and direct political action in Annapolis, Washington and communities statewide, we strive to improve the lives of working families in our state.