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Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal’s Statement on Unanimously Adopted Minimum Wage Increase Bill

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Montgomery County Councilmember
George Leventhal’s Statement on
Unanimously Adopted Minimum Wage Increase Bill

ROCKVILLE, Md., Nov. 7, 2017—Today the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed Bill 28-17, Human Rights and Civil Liberties – County Minimum Wage – Amount – Annual Adjustment, which would raise the minimum wage in the County to $15 an hour.  Councilmember Leventhal was one of the bill’s cosponsors.

Councilmember Leventhal’s full statement on today’s vote is below:

My biggest regret about this debate is that we have heard so little from the workers who earn $11.50 per hour. Mr. Leggett's study did not interview them, and although I made sincere efforts to recruit witnesses, we had very little testimony from minimum wage workers. They may be afraid to criticize their employers. They may have irregular work schedules. They may not have access to information about the County Council's work. But when we are making decisions about those who need the most help from government, I would like us to follow the dictum, "No decisions about us, without us."

Lo que más lamento de este debate es que hemos escuchado tan poco de los trabajadores que ganan $11,50 por hora. El estudio del Sr. Leggett no  entrevistó a los trabajadores, y aunque hice esfuerzos sinceros para reclutar testigos, teníamos muy poco testimonio de trabajadores que ganan el salario mínimo. Tal vez tienen miedo de criticar a sus empleadores, o pueden tener horarios de trabajo irregulares. Es posible que no tengan acceso a información sobre la labor del Consejo del condado. Pero cuando estamos tomando decisiones sobre aquellos que necesitan la mayor ayuda del gobierno, me gustaría que siguieramos el dictamen, "no decisiones sobre nosotros, sin nosotros."

Having said that, my vote for this bill today is a sign of my great confidence in the future of Montgomery County’s strong, robust, diverse economy. I understand there will be winners and losers. I do not take lightly the concerns of employers who will find that a wage mandate makes it difficult for them to pay the rent, keep the lights on, or even stay in business. However, the evidence of the past few years is that a rising minimum wage has not correlated with a rise in unemployment. Our County’s unemployment rate has gone down each year. I believe in the future of this County and I believe rising incomes at the bottom will benefit merchants, because increased spending money in the pockets of those with fewer resources is spent right away, on groceries, clothes, gasoline and other consumer goods that are sold by some of the very people who are complaining most vociferously about the minimum wage increase. I believe our County has a bright future, and I want everyone who lives here to participate in shared prosperity.

Further, I have been sitting on this dais for 15 years and I recall previous debates where affected parties exaggerated the negative effects of the legislation before us, which ultimately passed without harm. One of the very earliest controversies I encountered here was over the prohibition on smoking in bars and restaurants in 2003. Restaurant owners told us their world would come to an end if their customers were not allowed to stay in their establishments late at night, drinking lots of alcohol and smoking lots of tobacco. You can imagine how I felt about that, as Chairman of the County Council’s Health Committee. Councilmember Phil Andrews doesn’t serve here anymore, but each year after enactment of the smoking prohibition, he used to issue a press release marking the fact that restaurant tax revenue had increased every single year and that there was no adverse effect of prohibiting smoking – in fact, the evidence showed the opposite.

So as I vote for this bill, I’m thinking about my friend Fergal Murphy. Fergal works for the minimum wage at Home Depot. He shows up for work early in the morning – frequently at 6 a.m. He lifts heavy packages and pieces of lumber. He has a family to support, and a mortgage to pay. His family scrapes together a living, but the additional thousands of dollars per year in income this measure will provide will make a big difference for the Murphy family, and its ability to buy groceries, clothing, medicine, gasoline, and to send their kids to college. I am sympathetic to the concerns of employers in this County, but today I’m voting for the workers.

# # # # Release ID: 17-351
Media Contact: Sonya Healy 2407777926