Baltimore Dems fail again

The refusal of Baltimore's mayor, City Council president and the majority of council members to legitimately support a (kinda sorta, but not right away) $15 minimum wage for city workers is a clear indication that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

From the outset, the campaign pushed by the "new" Democrats in the council and the "new" mayor was phony. Legislation advanced by the City Council would not have increased the minimum wage to $15 until 2022, and even then not for workers under the age of 21. And businesses with fewer than 50 employees would have had until 2026 to comply with the $15 figure.

And despite candidate Catherine Pugh's promise to sign a $15 minimum wage bill when it "reaches my desk," Mayor Catherine Pugh vetoed it, watered down as it was. Pants on fire! Even more pathetic was her claim later that she didn't "swear on a Bible to raise the minimum wage." So much for the separation of church and state.

All of the debate was just hot air because it was a matter of political power and political will, and the Democrats failed again, as they have so often.

The president of the City Council (and mayor wannabe), Bernard C. "Jack" Young, refused to call a special meeting to consider an override of Mayor Pugh's veto. But it didn't matter because while there were initially 12 votes in the City Council for the minimum wage bill, only seven council members were willing to support an override.

Remember the joy after the November election about the turnover in the council and the proclamations about a new day in Baltimore? Despite all of the energetic protests in front of City Hall, the majority of the City Council remained resolute — to totally abandon Baltimore's lowest paid workers.

Some questions I would like to ask those who "fought for $15" this year: How many of you voted for Catherine Pugh when there was a Green Party alternative?

How many of you voted for Jack Young when there was a Green Party alternative?

How many of you voted for the Democrat in your City Council district when there was a Green Party alternative?

Are you part of the solution, or are you part of the problem?

The Baltimore City Green Party supported a faster increase in the minimum wage.

All of the fear tactics by City Council members Isaac "Yitzy" Schleifer, Leon Pinkett and Eric Costello about businesses moving out of the city are totally false. Most of the businesses in Baltimore — in health care, hospitality, fast food and retail — are strategically located and will not move.

And for the city of Baltimore to have employees making less than $15 — while giving $600-plus million in tax breaks to Port Covington — is an outrage.

Beyond this campaign, however, is a different challenge for the workers in the fast food restaurants, or in the service industries, who complain about the impossibility of living on less than $15: Organize a union! For hundreds of years, workers who thought they were underpaid or their work weeks were too long or they were abused by a boss organized so they could collectively take on their employer.

As I picketed in support of a higher minimum wage, it was discouraging to look at the fast food workers staring passively out at us. Occasionally one would come out and tell us how great it was and that they hoped we could make it happen.

I would like to inquire of all of the minimum wage workers in the city who wanted this increase: Did you vote? Did you vote to maintain the one-party city?

And now I would like to ask them what they learned. If they learned that change is impossible, and that cynicism is the solution, then they will continue working for lousy wages. If they learned that a different party is needed, and that they need to organize a union, maybe there is hope.

The lesson, as we have seen from the mayor's veto and the pathetic obedience of the majority of City Council members, is that no one can make it happen for you.

Be the change you want to see.

Bill Barry (billbarry21214@gmail.com) is the retired director of labor studies at the Community College of Baltimore County-Dundalk. The views expressed here are his own.

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