Members of the SEIU 1199 union demonstrate outside the State House in Annapolis on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, urging lawmakers to pass a bill gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Members of the SEIU 1199 union demonstrate outside the State House in Annapolis on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, urging lawmakers to pass a bill gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour. (Pamela Wood / Baltimore Sun)

I understand that Daniel Sauter doesn't like the idea of other people being paid decently and wanted to vent his spleen (“The $15 wage will do more harm than good,” Dec. 3). What I don't understand is why he would point to Seattle as "proof" that an increase would do harm. Even the economists who had initially decried the effects of the increase there now say that people who had been working significant numbers of hours before the increase saw their incomes increase by about $1,000 a year. Those who had been working fewer hours saw little net gain but were getting slightly more pay for fewer hours of work. In addition to the significant increase in average earnings, there was a tendency for low-wage workers to stay in their jobs longer, which means savings for employers who can spend less on recruitment and training and thus not need to raise prices as much.

Most of Mr. Sauter's dire consequences are purely hypothetical — longer waiting times in unspecified businesses, losses of undefined origin for people depending on child support. The most serious is the possible effect on people on fixed incomes. Yet the few articles I have seen on price increases tied to wage increases suggest that they might be no more than 2 percent to 5 percent at most, and the higher figures seem to be in places like restaurants, where labor may be more than 30 percent of expense. People on fixed incomes already do little dining out. In supermarket chains, it appears labor is more often in the range of 10 percent or a little more than that, so the increased payroll expense would have a smaller effect on prices.

Advertisement

Precisely how Maryland's wage increase will affect us all remains to be seen, but its effects on low-wage workers should be good. I am glad for the people who have had trouble making ends meet and may soon see greater stability in their lives.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam, Baltimore

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement