Montgomery County Council Press Releases & Statements

Statement by Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich on Increase in State Minimum Wage
 
  • Release ID: 14-105
  • Release Date: 4/9/2014
  • Contact: Neil Greenberger 240-777-7939 or Delphine Harriston240-777-7931
  • From: Council Office
Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich, who last fall led the efforts to have Montgomery County establish a County minimum wage, made the following statement today after the Maryland General Assembly on April 7 passed legislation to increase the State minimum wage:

The complete text of Councilmember Elrich’s statement:

Last night’s historic vote in the Maryland’s General Assembly to raise the minimum wage has taken the most important and meaningful step we, as elected officials, can take to lift people out of poverty. This legislation means Maryland workers will see a real and significant increase in the wages they earn for a hard day’s labor.

When I approached Council Chairman Phil Mendelson of the District of Columbia and Council Chair Andrea Harrison of Prince George’s County last summer about taking a regional approach to raising the minimum wage, I wanted to ensure that raising the minimum wage locally would not create an economic disadvantage for our county. Their cooperation demonstrated our shared concern for those at the bottom of the economic ladder. I am convinced that our regional approach helped create the momentum to raise the minimum wage at the state level. Our efforts received remarkable regional and national media attention, which may well have helped energize national efforts to raise the minimum wage, as well.

Some cautioned us to wait for the state or federal government to act. But we did not wait for leadership; we demonstrated it by leading the region and the state. As Delegate Tom Hucker predicted back in the fall, passage of a higher minimum wage in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties may have increased the likelihood that the General Assembly would pass a statewide increase. Once again, Montgomery County, our neighbors and now, our state, are at the forefront of this movement and we hope to see the federal government follow our lead.

In metropolitan jurisdictions like ours and Prince George’s County, the ability to address the higher cost of living for our workers is essential in our battle to provide adequate living wages and jobs with dignity for our county residents.

The increased wages earned by Maryland residents is likely to be spent locally—at grocery stores, restaurants and small businesses, stimulating our local economy and small businesses. Increasing the minimum wage leads to less employment turnover, bringing stability to the lives of working families and less mobility in our schools. Economic stability for families may well translate into stronger neighborhoods and schools, which gives kids a better shot at succeeding academically and lifting their families further up out of poverty.

Virtually the entire Montgomery County Delegation signed on to support this legislation early, with even stronger provisions than what finally passed the full General Assembly. They were powerful and consistent advocates in this battle, and I applaud their efforts. I would like to thank Senator Brian Feldman, who played a critical role in the Senate Finance Committee and its minimum wage workgroup to bring this bill to a vote. I thank Delegate Ben Kramer for introducing the bill requiring the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to enforce local minimum wage laws. I would also like to acknowledge the essential support of my co-sponsors here in Montgomery County—Councilmember Nancy Navarro and former Councilmember Valerie Ervin—for their commitment and advocacy.

So many of the committed, organized community members who moved this effort forward at the county level were instrumental in pushing it up to the state level and I am so proud of the partnerships we formed with them. Their efforts helped make passage of this bill a reality. I particularly applaud the efforts of Raise Maryland, Jews United for Justice, Progressive Maryland, all of our union partners, countless other advocates and ordinary citizens who took time out of their days, evenings and weekends, to advocate with passion and compassion so we could do what is right for residents of our state.

Poverty and injustice begets more of the same. People who work for a living should not return home at the end of the week without enough money to put food on the table or afford decent housing. People who work for a living should not have to work two jobs in order to support their families—they should be able to work one job and be home to be with their families, and support and nurture their children. There is a rising tide of activism—a new awareness—that low wages have a significant negative impact on our society. I applaud the Maryland General Assembly for this important step in reasserting the principle that an honest day’s work should beget an honest day’s pay. Lifting people out of poverty and into self-sufficiency begins with a fair wage.

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