Delivering for Maryland Working Families in 2019
Maryland Working Families
State Innovation Exchange – Maryland
National Employment Law Project
While Maryland’s economy is strong, working families across the state are still struggling. Paychecks for average Marylanders have been flat, leaving families squeezed as housing and living costs rise. Too many families cannot afford to take time off upon the birth of a child or when a loved one is ill – or risk losing their jobs if they do. And Washington’s attacks on unions are leaving workers vulnerable and threatening their ability to join together to push for better jobs and fair treatment. The legislature made important strides this year by passing paid sick days legislation and protections for public employees. This coming year Maryland’s new governor and legislature should continue that progress by raising wages, guaranteeing paid family leave and continuing to defend the state’s workers and unions.
- A Clean $15 Minimum Wage
Cost of living data show that even in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, Maryland’s workers need a $15 minimum wage just to cover the basics. But while D.C. , Montgomery County and states from Massachusetts to California are all moving forward with $15 minimum wages, this year the $15 minimum wage stalled in the legislature. Next year working Marylanders need the legislature to finally deliver a $15 minimum wage – and to make sure that it’s a “Clean $15” that doesn’t block the state’s high-cost regions from raising their minimum wages in the future, or contain loopholes that leave struggling workers behind.
Specifically, working Marylanders need a Clean $15 minimum wage that:
- Preserves the option for communities to raise the wage higher in the future – Some Maryland communities such as the D.C. suburbs have some of the highest housing costs in the United States. For years they have been successfully implementing minimum wages higher than the state level that better match their higher costs of living. Any $15 minimum wage package must preserve this power for counties and cities to go higher than the state wage in the future – the way states like Minnesota, Illinois, California, Washington State and Arizona have done – and must fight corporate lobbyists’ push to “preempt” local power to take progressive action.
- Includes younger workers – While they are a relatively small portion of workers earning less than $15 an hour, younger workers such as 18 and 19 year olds need a $15 minimum too. They are disproportionately from low-income households and about half of them are struggling to work their way through college with spiraling debt. Workers under twenty need to be included in a Clean $15 minimum wage package and can’t be left behind as some corporate lobbyists have called for.
- Includes tipped workers – Currently in Maryland tipped workers can be paid just $3.63 an hour, and forced to survive mostly on tips. The last time the state raised the minimum wage, it made the situation worse by freezing the tipped wage at that rate (before that it had been 50% of the state’s full minimum wage). The next minimum wage increase should include an increase for tipped workers to protect them against the instability of living on tips.
- Paid Family Leave for All Workers
In a significant step forward for working families, this spring Maryland joined eight other states in ensuring that all workers have access to paid sick days. However, many Maryland workers who need to take more time off to bond with a new child, to recover from in illness, or take care of a sick loved one still do not have access to paid family leave – or a guarantee that there will be a job for them when they return.
Next session the legislature should build on this year’s progress by establishing a state paid family leave program that provides a guaranteed basic paycheck for workers who need to take up to six weeks off, and ensures that they can return to their job when they’re done. Five other states and the District of Columbia already successfully operate such programs. Funded by modest employer and employee payroll tax surcharges, paid family leave programs enjoy broad, bi-partisan and business community support, and are a key step for creating a family friend economy. Research shows paid family leave delivers better health outcomes for children, greater workforce participation for low-income mothers, and reduces nursing home usage, among other benefits. And small businesses have reported improvements in profitability, productivity, retention, and employee morale with paid family leave programs.
- Defend Maryland’s Workers and Unions Against the Trump Administration’s War on Workers
It was by joining together through unions that workers in Maryland and across the nation helped build the middle class and expand access to good jobs, especially for women and workers of color. With inequality at record levels, Maryland workers need unions more than ever to help push for decent pay, benefits and treatment on the job.
But in Washington, workers and unions are under attack by the Trump Administration, the Republican Congress and the conservative courts. Decades of corporate-funded attacks culminated this year in the Supreme Court’s anti-union Janus decision, and in a spate of actions by the Trump Administration to curtail workers’ voice in the workplace. The Maryland legislature has already fought back by passing a package of reforms this session to defend workers. The legislature and the governor must continue to have workers’ backs by defending the state’s workers and unions in this time of need.