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How Maryland's first minimum-wage bill got passed [Letter]

As the person responsible for the passage of the first minimum-wage bill in Maryland while I was chairman of the Labor Committee on the Baltimore City Council in the 1960s, I remember very well the arguments of the vast horde of opponents who predicted business doom ("State leaders give partial backing to minimum-wage hike," Jan. 27).

Nineteen out of 20 of my fellow councilmen were very much opposed to the bill. It was only a scheme hatched by Councilman Leon Rubenstein and myself that sent the bill to passage.

Calling for wages of $1 per hour, testimony at the hearing on the bill revealed that almost all of Baltimore's finest eating establishments were paying 60 cents per hour for kitchen help. The same was true for hospitals, hotels, laundries, movie theaters and, yes, churches.

The owner of what was then acknowledged as Baltimore finest eating place testified that raising the minimum wage would put him out of business. Of course, after its passage, no one went out of business.

Passage was accomplished by my moving for a vote to take the bill out of committee for a public floor vote. Councilman Leon Rubenstein of the 5th District seconded it. As a result, the other 19 council members now had to vote publicly.

The vote was unanimous.

Thomas Ward

The writer is a former City Council member from Baltimore's 2nd District and retired judge of Circuit Court of Baltimore City.

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