Workers across the United States have been asking for a higher minimum wage for some time, and a new bill introduced in Baltimore would provide it, if passed into law. The bill, which was put out by City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, would make it illegal to pay workers in the city anything less than $15 an hour.
This would not have any impact on state or federal laws regarding minimum wage. In other states, the differences between city laws and state laws have become important, as lawmakers at different levels struggle to determine who gets to set the wages.
Research suggests that there are around 80,000 workers in the city who earn a low enough wage to be impacted by this bill. That’s roughly 25 percent of the total workforce in Baltimore. The change would not take place overnight. The bill proposes a staggered system that would slightly raise the minimum wage every year until it hit $15 per hour in 2020. That would theoretically give businesses more time to adjust.
Unrest in the City
Interestingly, Councilwoman Clarke talked about last summer’s unrest in Baltimore as part of the reason for this new bill. She referenced the death of Freddie Gray, which happened on April 19, 2015. He was taken into police custody, was injured while there, and passed away from those injuries. Many people were outraged by his death and there were riots in the city.
Clarke said that it was important to think about the underlying issues that cause the type of unrest that results in riots, and she pointed to the economic divide with the city’s population. She hopes that a bill that raises the wages for low-income workers would help to shrink this divide, which could potentially eliminate some of those feelings of unrest.
There are critics of the bill, though. They said that jobs would leave the city as businesses moved out to places where they could pay less than $15 per hour, and they also said the price of goods in the city would go up, canceling out any gains from the higher wage.
The Minimum Wage Battle
This is a battle being fought in many cities and states, and some have already made changes to increase wages. It’s crucial for workers to keep an eye on the current laws to make sure they’re paid accordingly.