2018 Legislative Session Starts with Focus on Working People

Del. Shelly Hettleman, front right, joins Jews United for Justice at a rally held in Annapolis in support of her proposed $15 minimum wage legislation. (Photo provided)

Although some Maryland small-business owners may not be enamored of two bills that made news at the start of the General Assembly’s 2018 session, workers and their advocates were happy to see Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of last session’s earned sick leave bill overridden and a successful rally held for the Fight for $15 campaign to raise Maryland’s minimum wage.

Del. Shelly Hettleman of Pikesville is planning to sponsor minimum-wage-hike legislation in the House. The bill would raise Maryland’s minimum wage (currently set to top out at $10.10 an hour this July) to $15 an hour by 2023.

At the start of the session, Hettleman said she was looking at how to “help workers in this changing economy, and one of those things is raising the minimum wage.”

“Local jurisdictions have taken a look at that over the past few years, and I think that it didn’t succeed in the city, because it’s truly difficult to do if you have surrounding jurisdictions that don’t increase their minimum wage,” she said. “It’s best addressed at a statewide level.”

Hettleman is collecting co-sponsors for the bill to demonstrate “grassroots support within the community as well as within the legislature.”

She said the proposed hike could affect a half-million workers and that by the end of the phase-in, those at the lower end of the wage scale could see a $4,600 increase.

On Jan. 15, Jews United for Justice took part in a rally in Annapolis to kick off the Fight For $15 campaign in support of the legislation. Dozens turned out.

“Our campaign to raise the minimum wage in Maryland is off to an amazing start,” said Baltimore JUFJ director Molly Amster in an email. “Thanks to the almost 30 JUFJers who came to Annapolis on [Jan. 15] to celebrate Martin Luther King and kick off this statewide campaign; we had so many people that we had to have an overflow rally in the hallway.”

The Jewish organization, which advocates for social justice issues, is holding its first Fight for $15 community meeting Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. at Langston Hughes Elementary School, 5011 Arbutus Ave. in Baltimore.

JUFJ also supported the earned sick leave bill that passed last session with a veto-proof majority but was nonetheless vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan, who vowed to submit a compromise bill this session. The House and Senate on Jan. 12 voted to override Hogan’s veto as one of their first acts of the 2018 session.

The bill requires employers with 15 or more workers to provide them with paid earned sick and safe leave and requires employers with 14 or fewer employees to provide unpaid earned sick and safe leave. The law takes effect Feb. 11, 2018, unless the legislature is persuaded to delay it.

The Baltimore Jewish Council called the override of the earned sick leave bill a “great victory for Maryland’s working families” and that the new policy would help more than 700,000 Marylanders.


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