By Adam Pagnucco.
The question of whether Montgomery County will have a $15 minimum wage has simmered for months. After County Executive Ike Leggett vetoed Council Member Marc Elrich’s bill last January, the county commissioned an ill-fated study on the effects of a wage hike that has been discredited. But Elrich, not waiting for any study, introduced a new bill that was little different from his previous one. The Executive has now announced his terms for signing it. We reprint his letter to the council below.
We summarize the differences between the bill and the Executive’s terms below.
Advocates for the bill reacted harshly to the Executive’s letter. They sent out the following press release today.
Economists, Community and Labor Groups Slam Executive Leggett Memo Say: “No More Delay Tactics, Working Families Need a Strong $15 Minimum Wage Now”
After Failed Study, Leggett Makes 2nd Attempt to Deny Low-Wage Workers a Living Wage
Rockville, MD- A coalition of economists, community and labor groups today condemned Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett over his memo requiring County Council members to follow a set of criteria that would dramatically weaken Council’s $15 minimum wage legislation. The group also demanded that Leggett suspend his attempts to amend an irredeemable study and sign a strong bill before the end of session. Leggett’s minimum wage “study,” was widely criticized and eventually halted by the Executive himself.
The statement below is attributable to Maryland Working Families, the National Employment Law Project (NELP), 32BJ SEIU, Jews United for Justice, Progressive Maryland and CASA.
“In one of the nation’s wealthiest counties, County Executive Leggett is making a second attempt to avoid raising the wage like so many other economically prosperous cities have done successfully. His youth exemption would keep thousands of working men and women under the age of 20 in poverty, leaving them to continue struggling to support themselves and their families. County residents are counting on the Council and the Executive to resist corporate lobbyists whose self-interests are out-of-sync with the needs of working families. It’s time to stop looking for excuses and raise the minimum wage by passing and signing a clean bill, without delayed implementation or exemptions.”
Research has shown that overwhelmingly, cities that have raised the wage have not experienced job loss and the local economy continues to prosper. Moreover, a wage increase can reduce reliance on public assistance from a safety net that faces extreme cuts from the Trump administration, placing a heavier burden on local taxpayers.
With more than 163,000 members in 11 states, including 18,000 in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.
So will there be a deal? Under normal circumstances, the answer is yes. The Executive is recommending a combination of delays and relatively modest adjustments for some categories of workers. He is not proposing a fundamental overhaul of the bill. A properly functioning legislative process would smooth out these details, probably by splitting the differences, and result in a 9-0 vote and a signed bill. That’s how Rockville works most of the time.
But the circumstances are anything but normal. Three Council Members are running for Executive and five more are running for reelection next year. The two Council Members who are Executive candidates and are sponsoring the bill must decide if they prefer a signed bill or a campaign issue. The bill advocates must decide whether they want another upheld veto which would cause further delay and take their chances with a new Executive and council. These decisions, which are ultimately political in nature, will determine whether there is a deal on minimum wage.