The House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee recently voted 17-7 to approve a bill to gradually increase the state's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. The minimum wage would increase to $11 on Jan. 1, 2020 and increase by 75 cents each year until hitting $15 in 2025.
Below, we discuss what the new bill includes and does not include, such as exemptions to minimum wage law for tipped workers and other types of workers.
Advocates for a $15 minimum wage wanted to hit $15 by 2023, but lawmakers felt it was fairer to employers to delay the implementation of a $15 minimum wage and not start boosting the wage from its current level until 2020.
The original bill also eliminated the tip credit which allows a lower base wage for tipped workers. Under the bill, tipped workers including bartenders and servers will still be paid a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum wage ($2.13 per hour), at $3.63 per hour. Under state law, this wage combined with tips must meet or exceed the state’s minimum wage.
The bill also keeps the provision in state law that allows Maryland workers under the age of 18 to be paid 85 percent of the minimum wage. This so-called “training wage” is allowed during the first six months of employment for any worker younger than 21. The original bill eliminated this training wage.
For organizations using state reimbursements to pay employees, the bill would add state funding. This would increase the funds available for wages, such as for workers serving people with disabilities.
Under the bill, Maryland’s Board of Public Works is given a one-time ability to halt the wage increase schedule. This could be done based on economic data for one year if economic conditions warrant.
In 2025, the state’s minimum wage will reach its max at $15 per hour, unless additional legislation is passed. Previously, the bill linked minimum wage increases with the Consumer Price Index of the federal government, which would make automatic minimum wage increases in the future.
Advocates for a $15 minimum wage are displeased that the bill that was approved lacks certain items they feel are important for Maryland workers.
The current bill keeps exemptions for workers not subjected to minimum wage requirements. One such group of workers is those in the agricultural industry. Advocates believe that exempting these workers from the minimum wage stems from racial injustice. Lawmakers cite that many agricultural workers are paid based on production, providing the opportunity to earn far more than minimum wage.
The new bill removed parts of the original bill to improve enforcement remedies for workers who believe their employers broke wage laws. Lawmakers say they will work toward increasing these worker protections at a later date.
Advocates for the original bill also wanted to tie future minimum wage raises to the federal Consumer Price Index. This would make minimum wage increases automatic, eliminating work for lawmakers. Instead, lawmakers chose to make all future decisions regarding any new minimum wage increases, saying that linking to the Consumer Price Index could create runaway increases that would make Maryland's wage rates out of line with minimum wage rates in other states.
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