Skip to main content

Press Releases

Montgomery County Council introduces bill that would increase minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Montgomery County Council today introduced Bill 12-16 that would gradually increase the County minimum wage to $15 per hour by July 1, 2020. Councilmember Marc Elrich is the lead sponsor of the legislation. Councilmembers Tom Hucker, George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer are co-sponsors.

In 2013, in an effort led by Councilmember Elrich, the Council enacted Bill 27-13 that established a County minimum wage for private sector employees working in the County, unless the State or federal minimum wage is higher. Councilmember Elrich at that time also led a regional effort, joined by Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia, to establish the minimum wage eventually to $11.50 per hour. As that movement continues to improve conditions, it is now clear that the minimum wage must be even higher to give Washington area workers a chance to earn a livable wage.

The County minimum wage established under Bill 27-13 is being phased in over several years. The rate was set at $8.40 per hour effective Oct. 1, 2014, and increased to $9.55 per hour on Oct. 1, 2015. It is set to increase to $10.75 on July 1 of this year, and will go to $11.50 per hour on July 1, 2017.

The County minimum wage does not apply to a worker who is exempt from the State or federal minimum wage, is under the age of 19 and is employed no more than 20 hours per week, or subject to an "opportunity wage" under the State or federal law. Employers of tipped employees may include in the computation of their wage amount a "tip credit" not exceeding the County minimum wage less $4 per hour.

In 2014, the Maryland General Assembly enacted a law raising the State's minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour over four years, with incremental increases to $8.25 in 2015, $8.75 in 2016, $9.25 in 2017 and $10.10 in 2018. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 hour and has not changed since 2009. California and New York are currently in the process of enacting statewide laws that would increase their respective minimum wages for at least some workers to $15 per hour over a period of years.

Under the transition provisions of Bill 12-16, the County minimum wage would increase to $12.50 in 2018, $13.75 in 2019 and $15 in 2020. Additionally, the bill would require, beginning in 2021, annual adjustments to the minimum wage by the annual average increase, if any, in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.

Additional information on the minimum wage bill is available at: https://34justice.com/2016/01/04/the-sound-reasoning-behind-a-15-minimum-wage/

The complete text of Councilmember Elrich’s statement:

Today, I introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020 and to index it to inflation thereafter. I want to thank my colleagues who are joining me in this effort and say to all my colleagues that I understand that there may be some compromises and adjustments along the way on this legislation.

I would like to put this legislation in context by quoting our most progressive and greatest President Franklin D. Roosevelt who understood the importance of a decent wage, when he said in his 1933 statement on the National Industrial Recovery Act: ‘No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level — I mean the wages of a decent living.’ In 1938, when establishing a minimum wage he said, ‘Without question it starts us toward a better standard of living and increases purchasing power to buy the products of farm and factory.’

A lot has changed since the 1930s and yet, in a fundamental way, certain things have not changed at all. All of us need a roof over our heads and need to be able to feed our families. If people work, their wages ought to be able to sustain them.

Raising the minimum wage is an essential step toward a more just—and more robust—economy.

What I would like to emphasize—what we don’t talk about enough—is the overall effect of decent wages on society. Too often, we focus on the pay without discussing the broader implications.
Families with living wages have better housing choices and are less likely to face eviction. Neighborhoods become more stable.

We know that families that are economically insecure have greater tensions that are destructive to relationships. Tensions in the family affect children emotionally. And that emotional distress plays out in the classroom. With tensions and economic instability in the family, it is harder for students to be learners.

So, raising the minimum wage is not just about the pay for work done, it has the potential to fundamentally alter dynamics in the long run—particularly for the lives of children.

If we want to attack the achievement gap, the lack of access to affordable health care, we can do so by boosting wages so that people—families—can live lives not as stress-filled and unstable.

I taught children who came to school hungry and it made it harder for them to learn. Some of my students’ families were making choices between health care, food and other essential needs. And even though ‘Obamacare’ has improved access health care, it has not solved the problems of cost. It affects the educational outcomes of people.

If we want serious social change, it starts with food on the table and a roof over our heads.

And it is important to highlight the ‘multiplier effect’ of increasing the minimum wage. We know that lower income individuals spend the vast majority of their incomes (because they must) and that money goes directly into the local economy. They don’t use their money to buy yachts, diamonds or expensive vacations; they spend their money at local grocery stores, clothing stores and in family activities. That money goes back into our economy and creates more jobs. This is how you build an economy.

I know that increasing the minimum wage raises the cost for certain businesses, but labor costs are a cost like food costs, rent costs. If we—as a society—had indexed minimum wage for inflation, we would have addressed this issue long ago. My bill would not make the minimum wage $15 per hour immediately, it would gradually raise it.

There is reliable and extensive research that contradicts the assertion that a $15 per hour minimum wage will reduce jobs.

I would also like to point out that Montgomery County’s area median income, or AMI, was about $109,200 in 2015. Two full-time workers earning $15 per hour, working 52 weeks would earn $62,400—which can be figured as $31,200 by two people at $15 per hour times 40 hours per week by 52 weeks. That is 57 percent of the AMI. That couple—or family, more likely—has not been catapulted into the ranks of great wealth with $15 per hour wage. They now have been given a chance to support themselves and their family.

And finally today, on April 12, which is Equal Pay Day, nationally women are the majority of low wage earners. Women—and especially single mothers—stand to greatly benefit from this legislation.


                                                                               # # # #

Release ID: 16-114
Media Contact: Neil Greenberger 240-777-7939