Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Councilmembers Elrich, Ervin, Navarro Lead Effort to Create Regional Minimum Wage


Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich on Oct. 1 introduced a bill before the County Council that will be part of a collaborative effort with the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County to establish a regional minimum wage of $11.50 per hour over the next three years. Councilmember President Nancy Navarro and Councilmember Valerie Ervin are co-sponsors.

A public hearing on Bill 27-13 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24.

On Oct. 9, Councilmembers Elrich and Ervin joined Prince George’s County Council Chair Andrea Harrison and District of Columbia Council Chairman Phil Mendelson in a joint news conference at the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments offices to discuss how they plan to navigate their regional minimum wage through their respective local governments.

Councilmember Elrich announced early in September that he would be introducing a bill to raise the minimum wage in Montgomery County. Although Bill 27-13 would increase the minimum wage over three years to $12 per hour based on his original proposal, Councilmember Elrich said he intends to request an amendment to change the rate to $11.50 per hour to be consistent with similar bills that Prince George’s County Council Chair Harrison and District of Columbia Council Chairman Mendelson have introduced in their respective jurisdictions as part of an effort to establish a Washington regional minimum wage.

“Maryland’s minimum wage at $7.25 per hour is the equivalent of $15,000 a year for a full-time, year-round employee, and that leaves a wage earner and their family below the federal poverty line,” said Councilmember Elrich. “We are not talking about people who are trying to take advantage of the system—we are talking about people who just want to take care of their families as a result of the hard work they do, and at the current minimum wage, that is not possible.

“If we have a minimum wage of $11.50 per hour, it will at least be a step a right direction for workers, and in the end, everyone benefits. If people have a better chance of taking care of their own needs, they will be less dependent on the supplemental assistance that they now must have to survive.”

Bill 27-13 would require certain private sector employers in Montgomery County to pay the minimum wage to employees working in the County.  The bill provides credit for an employer who provides health insurance to the employee. The provisions of the bill would be enforced by the County’s Office of Human Rights and the Human Rights Commission.

“Raising the minimum wage is not just an economic demand; it is a civil right demand,” said Councilmember Ervin.  “The 1963 March on Washington called for a $2 per hour minimum wage.  Fifty years later, we are still marching and fighting for jobs and freedom.  In my opinion, we must combat poverty regionally by raising the minimum wage and creating jobs.  These are two of the best ways to help our working families reach their goals and create better lives for themselves and their children. I am delighted to stand shoulder to shoulder with our regional partners to help make this happen.”

Council President Navarro said establishing the minimum wage in a regional approach addresses the economic issues presented by living in the Washington area.

"Taking a regional approach to raising the minimum wage recognizes the high cost of living in the D.C. Metropolitan area,” said Council President Navarro. “Everyone deserves a living wage for an honest day's work. Passing a regional minimum wage is an important step toward ensuring every resident with a job has the ability provide for themselves and their families."

The County minimum wage would be phased in over several years. The rate would be $8.25 per hour on July 1, 2014, $9.75 per hour on July 1, 2015, and $11.50 per hour on July 1, 2016 per Councilmember Elrich’s amendment. During the phase-in period between July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2016, an employer would be able to pay the prior year rate for an employee's first 90 days on the job. Beginning on July 1, 2017, the rate would be raised by any increase in the Consumer Price Index on an annual basis.

The County minimum wage would not apply to a worker who is not covered by the State or federal minimum wage law, a tipped employee or a worker subject to an opportunity wage under the State or federal law.