This Monday, March 20, the Baltimore CIty Council votes on whether to adopt a $15 minimum wage in Baltimore. The Baltimore City Green Party officially endorses this action. Our support for this measure arises from the simple principle that the people of Baltimore deserve to live in dignity. Anyone who does an honest day’s work should be able to come home at the end of the day with their needs sustained, their children provided for, and enjoy a reasonable quality of life.
The sad truth is that even $15 an hour, which would be about $30,000 a year for full-time work, is inadequate. For those who can only work part-time due to reasons such as child-raising, pursuing an education, disability, or simply being unable to find a full-time job, the situation is even more dire. To maintain an even lower minimum wage as we have today would be not only inadequate but unjust and immoral. Baltimore cannot afford to wait for the state of Maryland or the nation as a whole to pass an increased minimum wage. Indeed, if we can be a leading city in this movement, all the better.
An increased minimum wage would not only benefit the tens of thousands of Baltimore workers whose income would directly be affected. Hundreds of thousands of children and other dependents who make up almost half the city’s population rely partially or in whole upon the income of low-wage workers. Local businesses, especially those serving low-income areas, would benefit from workers’ increased spending power. To continue to permit low wages for those businesses who don’t see fit to provide their employees with a living does a disservice to all the other businesses who stand to gain from having those employees as their customers. When people have money in their pockets, they use it and the economy as a whole prospers.
The current low wages shift the burden of providing for workers’ sustenance from employers to the taxpayers. By reducing the scourge of poverty in our communities we can move citizens off the rolls of public assistance programs and use those tax dollars on other programs to improve the city and its services. By lifting our neighbors out of poverty we also disassemble the perverse structures that force people to turn to crime to earn an income. The violence and unease that crime creates across our city is measured not only in human suffering, but also as an impediment to further economic growth and prosperity.
While the Green Party certainly supports the increased wage, we also have reservations about the compromises that were required to get this bill to move forward. The phase in period extends over the better part of a decade and by the time the wage is actually $15/hr we fear that it will be even less buying power for working people and their families. Furthermore exempting younger workers from the wage increase fails to recognize the simple reality of our city, younger workers need higher wages too. In many cases younger workers are a primary income in their household, and for others the wage they earn is essential to paying for education and training needed to move to higher wage brackets. These compromised aspects of this bill while necessary for passage in the current climate illustrate yet again why we need bold and uncompromising leadership in the highest positions at City Hall.
The Baltimore City Council And Mayor are entrusted with the care and protection of the city’s residents. There is nothing more fundamental they can do for their citizens than to ensure that their hard work is rewarded with enough money to live on.