Cumberland Times-News

March 20, 2014

NAACP asks Edwards to back changes in minimum-wage act

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

— Dear Senator Edwards,

I am writing on behalf of the Allegany County Branch of the NAACP to request that you support passage of legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage, which would expand opportunity for hardworking families who play by the rules, reward hard work by boosting the paychecks of 300,000 Marylanders, create more customers for Maryland businesses, and grow the ranks of a diverse, upwardly-mobile middle class.

The nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute has found that more than 455,000 Marylanders would benefit from increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, putting $456 million more in their pockets in the next two years.

At the same time, businesses would benefit from nearly half a billion dollars in new consumer spending and would create more than 1,600 new full-time jobs as they expand to meet increased demand.

The Maryland Minimum Wage Act of 2014 (SB331/HB 295), passed by the House of Delegates on March 7 and scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee on March 26, would raise the state’s lowest wage to $10.10 by 2017. This is a critical step to address the growing gap between the rich and the poor and to help bring financial security to our middle class. 

However, the House-passed bill includes a provision that would permanently freeze pay for tipped workers at $3.63. We urge you to support changes to the bill in the Senate to set pay for tipped workers at 70 percent of minimum wage. 

Here are a few facts we ask that you consider during debate on this legislation:

• A low wage for tipped workers disproportionately affects women, who are 60 percent of tipped workers and 66 percent of restaurant servers.

• Freezing the tipped minimum wage at $3.63 per hour means that any pay raise for tipped workers will have to come entirely out of customer tips, while the employers of tipped workers will be free to keep their payrolls unchanged.

• Across the country, tipped workers are more than twice as likely to fall under the federal poverty line, and nearly three times as likely to rely on food stamps, as the average worker.

• Restaurant workers in states with no subminimum for tipped workers have higher incomes and paying increased wages has not impeded growth in restaurant employment

 Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this important issue for working families and for your service to the citizens of Western Maryland.

Valerie Lashley, president

NAACP, Allegany County Branch