As democratic activists from across the state lined up for a press conference announcing a bill aimed at increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour earlier this year; members just knew that they had their best opportunity in years to pass such a progressive piece of legislation.
Fresh off the heels of a campaign cycle where many of the unions involved in the “Fight for $15” campaign to raise Maryland’s minimum wage were successful in ousting long-time state senators; the group just knew 2019 was their year, especially after the democratic leadership made their issue one of their priority agenda items.
In fact, the group led by the powerful healthcare union SEIU1199 told the media, and the 188-members of the state legislature, that they wanted a “clean bill” – meaning they didn’t want to see any amendments made to their well thought out and carefully crafted bill.
Well, it appears that members of both the House and the Senate weren’t much concerned about their demand for a clean bill, as the once progressive piece of legislation is now nothing more than a watered-down version of the bill they once hoped to get pass.
And even after the House’s Economic Matters Committee all but snatched the heart out of the original version of the bill, by tacking on amendment after amendment, stretching the minimum wage increase of $15 from 2023 to 2025; the group hung its hopes on the fact that those newly elected, young and progressive senators they got elected in 2018 would help revive the bill that remains on life-support.
Instead, members of the Senate’s Finance Committee just weakened the bill even more earlier today, voting 8-3 to send the bill to the Senate floor with a glaring difference from the House version – that small businesses wouldn’t have to begin paying their employees $15 an hour until 2028. That is three years after the House’s deadline, and five years more than what advocates had originally written in the bill. And the worst part is, the bill hasn’t even been debated on the Senate floor, as it awaits second reader tomorrow in the Md State Senate chambers, where senators are likely to add even more amendments to the once inspiring piece of legislation.
It appears now that supporters of the bill have to ask themselves one question: Does it make more sense to accept the watered-down version of a bill, that may get weaker by the day; or just pull the legislation altogether and hope to build a larger and stronger political coalition around the principles of the bill over the next year?