The time for $15 minimum wage is now, not 3 years from now

The time for $15 minimum wage is now, not 3 years from now

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On New Year’s Day, Maryland’s minimum wage increased from $12.50 to $13.25. I am proud of the results achieved from the work that I, Del. Diana Fennell, and the Maryland General Assembly put forth back in 2019 with Senate Bill 280 / House Bill 166.

Though we fell short of immediately raising the minimum wage to $15.00— addressing the disparity amongst tipped workers, inflation escalator, and other impacting factors—we were able to override Governor Hogan’s veto in the 2020 Legislative Session, securing 85 votes in the House and 29 votes in the Senate.

During the floor debate, I shared the story of my mother, who worked two to three jobs to feed our family. I talked about the concentration of poverty and how many of the people making minimum wage were in Baltimore, as well as on the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland. I talked about how the black and brown demographic, and most distinguishably women, make up the recipients of minimum wage. I talked about the challenges real people face, and the difference we had to make.

In October, I attended the Maryland State & DC AFL-CIO Conference, packed with hundreds of labor delegates from across the state, and was inspired by the words Governor-elect Wes Moore shared with the House of Labor.

He spoke about the rising inflation, need to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 now, and attaching the minimum wage escalator to inflation. He spoke passionately about the lives of real people impacted by the circumstances shared in his examples throughout his time on the campaign trail, and he said their names. We saw how he was carrying their journey and pain across the finish line along with us, strengthening the importance of now.

During my time in the legislature, I have witnessed the attachment of gas tax to inflation. Prior to my tenure in the Maryland General Assembly, the legislature attached the increase of the MTA fare to inflation, impacting those that rely on and need public transportation the most.

My time in the Maryland General Assembly has been shared solely with a single governor. Naturally, I’ve had to fight harder for the values and causes that I am passionate about, like securing voting rights for those on parole and probation, increasing the minimum wage for those seeking shared prosperity in our economy, providing safe and reliable public transportation for rising scholars attending school, supplying resources for families in search of food access and seniors in need of prescription drugs.

These and so many other initiatives that were vetoed and required to be overridden and overwritten. Thankfully, with Gov.-elect Moore, we stand in a moment where the political courage exists, the assignment is understood, and the intent has clearly been communicated. I am inspired to, finally, have a governing partner in Annapolis that sees the vision and shares the same values.

As we enter the 2023 Legislative Session, I look forward to standing with the Moore-Miller administration in raising the minimum wage from $13.25 to $15.00 right now, and not in three years; attaching the minimum wage to inflation, and addressing the carve-out of tipped employees, youth workers, and seasonal workers. The endeavor may not be easy, yet it is purposeful and worthy to ensure that “No One is Left Behind”.

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