The following is testimony from Fran Teplitz, Director of Green America’s Green Business Network, at the Maryland State Senate hearing on February 21, 2019 in support of increasing Maryland’s minimum wage to $15 an hour (SB 280).
My name is Fran Teplitz and I serve as the Executive Co-director for Business, Investing & Policy at Green America and as Director of Green America’s Green Business Network. I have lived in Maryland for most of my life and for the last 20-plus years have resided in Silver Spring.
Green America is a national membership organization dedicated to harnessing the power of the economy – of businesses, investors, and consumers – for social justice and environmental sustainability. Our Green Business Network includes more than 100 businesses in Maryland and 7,000 individual consumer members in the State. Our goal is to create a robust economy that works for all by respecting the needs of people and the planet.
I am here to register support for raising the minimum wage in Maryland to $15/hour in phases by 2023. So doing will strengthen the well-being of workers and thus our overall economy.
Green America believes that building broad-based prosperity is essential to economic vitality at the state and national levels. Momentum is building across the country and across the State of Maryland for minimum wage increases so that workers, their families, and their communities can have greater economic security. Women and people of color, who disproportionately earn low wages, especially need the minimum wage increase to meet the costs of a very basic standard of living. County Executives from Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Anne Arundel County, and Howard County have spoken in favor of the increase to $15 an hour as has Baltimore City Mayor Pugh. As County Executive Marc Elrich has noted, when Montgomery and Prince George’s counties increases their minimum wages in 2013, employment went up, not down.
When workers cannot meet, or barely meet, their basic economic needs while working full time, something is wrong. Increasing the minimum wage will lessen demands on our social safety net which should not need to support Marylanders at full-time jobs.
Workers, of course, are also consumers. With more money in their accounts, minimum wage workers can help strengthen the local economy and make possible additional job creation. Extensive research demonstrates that increasing the minimum wage does not cause increased unemployment and business closures. As economist Ben Zipperer of the Economic Policy Institute summarized in his February 7th remarks for the Congressional hearing on a $15/hour minimum wage: “The bulk of recent economic research on the minimum wage, as well as the best scholarship, establishes that prior increases have had little-to-no negative consequences and instead have meaningfully raised the pay of the low wage workforce.”
Worker satisfaction and the ability to live on one’s paycheck are certainly key to worker retention. Businesses lose time, talent, institutional knowledge, and resources when they must continually rehire for positions that pay too little. Businesses have reported improved retention, work quality, and long-term savings by increasing workers’ pay. Just as costs for energy, products, rent, and other business expenses increase over time, so too should worker pay. Businesses find the means to meet a variety of cost increases. Workers who help bring business to life and who are the most valuable asset to any business – must be compensated adequately. Workers should not be short-changed as the cost of living increases.
From an economic perspective, there is strong support for phasing in an increase to Maryland’s minimum wage to $15/hour by 2023. Maryland can be a leader on the issue while learning from other states and institutions. The report Minimum Wage Policy and the Resulting Effect on Employment from 2015 by the research firm Integrity Florida states: "Our examination of employment statistics in states found no evidence of employment loss in states that have increased the minimum wage and more evidence that suggests employment increases faster when there is an increase in the minimum wage."
In closing, I respectfully request a favorable report on SB 280. Thank you very much.