The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Baltimore:
Minimum Wage Hike Defeated

Apr 3, 2017

Just a week after a big majority of the Baltimore City Council voted to hike the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next several years, Mayor Catherine Pugh vetoed the increase. She also convinced at least a couple of council members who had supported the increase to announce that they would not vote to override her veto.

The mayor had promised to approve such an increase during her election campaign last year. She said she had changed her mind because she didn’t think such an increase was in the best interests of the city now.

But the bill she vetoed wouldn’t have increased the minimum wage at all right now. Minimum wages have fallen farther and farther behind inflation. The minimum would have to be raised to about $11.40 an hour right now in order to be equal to what the federal minimum was in 1968, taking inflation into account. But many economists say that in fact the minimum wage would have to be over $20 an hour or more to match the standard of living of 1968. Currently the city has no minimum wage. The Maryland state minimum is now $8.75 an hour and will rise to $9.25 an hour in July and $10.10 in 2018.

This bill would not have even started phasing in increases over several years until 2019. It wouldn’t have increased the minimum to $15 an hour until 2022 for businesses with 50 employees or more and not until 2026 for smaller businesses – nine years from now! In addition, the bill didn’t apply to workers under 21 years old, nor to workers who receive tips on their jobs no matter what their age.

A minimum wage increase similar to this one in Baltimore was recently vetoed in Montgomery County, Maryland, a big suburb of Washington D.C. The defeat of these measures and others around the country (with a few exceptions), shows that a real fight by the working class, or at least some significant part of it, will be needed to stop the reduction in workers’ standard of living that has been taking place for several decades.