Montgomery County Will Raise Minimum Wage To $11.50 by 2017

December 1, 2013  |  

Montgomery County, MD, one of the most affluent counties in America, has voted to increase the minimum wage to $11.50 by 2017; this is $4.25 higher than the current federal wage minimum, The Washington Post reports. Many areas are reconsidering the minimum wage in their locale given the persistent faced by low-wage workers. This troubling story appeared in The New York Times this weekend.

After four hours of intense and heated debate on Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council emerged with an 8-to-1 vote in favor of increasing the minimum wage by 59 percent over the course of four years. On Oct. 1 in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, the rate will be increased to $8.40, $9.55, $10.75, and $11.50, respectively.

The slow, gradual increase in the county’s minimum wage stemmed from concerns that the hourly rate “was being raised too high and too fast,” The Washington Post adds.

“The final bill we passed today isn’t perfect, but it is meaningful and important. Our residents will see a real and significant increase in the money they earn for their hard day’s labor,” said Marc Elrich (D-At Large). At $11.50 an hour, workers will make $23,600 a year — still well below the cost of living in Montgomery County, but a significant leap in income.

According to ABC7/WJLA, the new minimum wage bill came with seven new amendments, including: Employers are required to pay tipped workers a rate equal to 50 percent of the state’s minimum wage; they should also make up for “any shortfall in tips up to the county minimum wage;” workers under the age of 19 — who work less than 20 hours a week — are exempt from the wage hike; and an anti-retaliation clause will be added.

For the low-income workers who rallied against the council members prior to Tuesday’s vote, the wage increase comes at a relief. “We can’t even support ourselves. We need this, it’s so important for so many of us,” said housekeeper Charlotte Samen, an immigrant from Cameroon who earns $1,000 a month.

Local businesses, on the other hand, are disquieted by the new law. “Last year I had $700,000 in sales, which may sound like a lot until you see I had $800,000 in expenditures, and that was before this vote,” said Bob Daly, co-owner of the California Tortilla restaurant in the county.

Daly pays his employees between kitchen employees between $8 and $8.50 an hour. “This will definitely hurt us big time. I can tell you I will not open another business in Montgomery County ever again,” he added.

Councilman Phil Andrews (D) sympathizes with Daly — he was the only member who submitted a “no” vote. “I am disappointed that the county council has rushed ahead and unnecessarily adopted a minimum wage bill that is so flawed,” he said.

Council member Eric Olson (D-College Park) explained that the bill was needed to provide financial security for the county’s struggling residents. “The objective here is to improve the economic conditions of our lowest-paid workers, and this would improve the situation. Legislation sometimes is about compromises,” he explained.

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