Baltimore’s City Council has taken a step closer to implementing a $15 per hour minimum wage.
The Council’s Labor Committee voted 4-0 this week in favor of a bill that will gradually increase the city-wide minimum wage to $15 by 2022.
The legislation will be voted on by the full council in August, and includes an amendment proposed by Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke to exempt the city’s small businesses from the $15 per hour minimum wage requirement. The amendment would exclude businesses with fewer than 25 employees or less than $500,000 in gross annual revenue from the requirement.
Despite the unanimous vote by the committee, the legislation will face stiffer opposition when it reaches the full council. Several council members, including Council President Jack Young, have already gone on record as opposing the measure. Young said the city budget can’t absorb an across the board minimum wage increase
The Greater Baltimore Committee and other business-backed groups also oppose a city-wide increase in the minimum wage.
“Baltimore needs more jobs and appropriate training programs for low-skilled workers to develop career paths in the workforce,” Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, a $15 per hour minimum wage for Baltimore looks like it would be a job killer.”
But Eliot Williams, an employee of Sankofa African and World Bazaar on Charles Street, said he understands both sides of the issue.
“As an employee, I can definitely see the need,” he told the AFRO. “But for small businesses, it’s a little unsettling. I can see the good and bad in raising the minimum wage.” Williams said that Black businesses will be left particularly vulnerable, despite their close ties to their communities.
Clarke, the bill’s original champion, is joined by a variety of the city’s labor unions and community groups in support of its passing.
Baltimore would be among the first major American cities to pass a $15 an hour minimum wage bill. In June, Washington D.C. passed a bill to increase minimum wages to $15 per hour. Baltimore currently does not set a minimum wage; city workers are paid in accordance with the state’s minimum wage laws, which recently increased to $8.75 and is scheduled to max out at $10.00 per hour by 2018.