Restaurants in Seattle are raising their wages, upping prices and discouraging tipping as the impact of Seattle's $15 an hour minimum wage ordinance takes shape. (AP)
It’s Labor Day, and with state elections just a couple of months away, it’s a good time for voters to take stock of what Annapolis is doing to protect workers in Maryland. While Wall Street and CEO pay are hitting record highs, on Main Street hard working families are still struggling. Paychecks for the middle class have been flat, leaving families squeezed as their bills rise.
During the last legislative session, the General Assembly took an important step forward by passing paid sick day protections. But efforts to increase the minimum wage to $15 stalled, leaving the statewide wage just $10.10. Workers who need more time off to take care of new babies or sick family members still enjoy no paid family leave. And the unions that helped to build Maryland’s middle class are under attack across the country. The truth is that while government is helping the wealthiest, it is not doing enough for the many working families who are living paycheck-to-paycheck and drive the economy.
The voters are demanding bold action to deliver real opportunity for working Marylanders. That’s why our organizations are calling on candidates and elected leaders to adopt a simple, three-part action agendafor the coming session for boosting Maryland’s middle class and relieving some of the pressure on families trying to stay afloat. The three straightforward planks are finally raising the minimum wage to $15 for all Maryland workers; adopting a paid family leave program; and committing our state to pushing back against the Trump administration’s assault on workers’ rights.
First, workers across the state need a $15 minimum wage. D.C. , Montgomery County and states from Massachusetts to California have already approved $15 minimum wages. In neighboring New Jersey, a $15 wage is at the top of Gov. Phil Murphy’s agenda for the year. Next year working Marylanders need the legislature to finally join these states with a $15 wage, which will deliver a badly needed raise for more than half a million Marylanders.
Finally, Maryland legislators must act to protect workers from the Trump administration’s war on workers’ fundamental right to join unions. Unions have been one of the most important forces for building the middle class and reducing inequality. But decades of corporate-funded attacks culminated this year in the Supreme Court’s anti-union Janus decision. Maryland workers need unions more than ever to help push for decent pay and benefits, and fair treatment on the job. The legislature has already responded by passing a package of reforms last session to defend workers. Maryland leaders must continue to have workers’ backs by defending the state’s workers and unions in this time of need.
All of these measures in the agenda we outline enjoy broad popular support and are key steps for creating a family friendly and thriving economy in Maryland. This coming year it’s critical that we come together as a state to support working families.