ROCKVILLE – Fallout from the county’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 came as expected Tuesday night as business owners and laborers found themselves on opposite sides of the issue.
Forty people testified Tuesday night about Bill 12-16, which would raise the minimum wage to $12.50 per hour in 2018, $13.75 per hour in 2019 and $15 per hour in 2020.
After 2020, the minimum wage will be tied to inflation.
The minimum wage is already set to increase to $10.75 on July 1 and $11.50 by 2017.
“If you all pass this bill it would be great for people like myself — single moms,” said Latoya McFarlane, a tipped worker from Silver Spring.
McFarlane said she works eight to nine hours a day but still cannot make ends meet for her family.
While McFarlane bemoaned the County’s high cost of living, business owners testified at the hearing that raising the minimum wage hurts their ability to hire more workers.
“We pay over the minimum wage, we pay overtime, we pay benefits, we have not hired office staff because our profit margin doesn’t allow it,” said Wendy Johnson, owner of Senior Helpers in Silver Spring. “Raising the minimum wage will be a burden on our business. We’re considering a lease extension but we held off entirely based on this proposal.”
Meanwhile, Carlos Jimenez, executive director for the Metro Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, stressed that an increase is needed so people can afford to live in the County.
“Given rising cost for housing, living expenses and other basic needs, it is critical we raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” he said.
Lynne Martin, owner of Seibel’s restaurant in Burtonsville, said she has already cut staff and hours due to the already scheduled increase in the minimum wage.
“I did not hire six summer employees that I hired last year to just dip ice cream, I have eliminated 36 hours of bus hours, I have cut 21 hours of cook hours and 21 hours of dish washing positions. I am doing that myself,” Martin said.
Joseph Beach, director of the Montgomery County Department of Finance, said it is unclear what would be the impact of raising the minimum wage in the County.
“It is uncertain whether increasing the minimum wage would either increase or decrease employment among low-wage workers,” Beach said in an analysis of the proposed bill.
A majority of council members have already expressed support for the bill.
Council member Marc Elrich (D) sponsored the bill. It is co-sponsored by George Leventhal (D-At large), Hans Riemer (D-At large), Nancy Navarro (D-4) and Tom Hucker (D-5).
Elrich previously told supporters the goal was to join Washington D.C. and Prince George’s County to spread the impact of the wage increase over the Washington Metropolitan Region.
On June 21, the Washington D.C. City Council finalized its bill to raise the District’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said she will sign it.
Following the advice of Elrich, Justin Vest, development officer for Progressive Maryland, testified at the meeting that the minimum wage was necessary because the County was becoming too expensive for low-wage workers.
“The simple reality is that workers are being priced out of their communities,” Vest said.