BALTIMORE – July 24th, 2012 – As concern grows over Baltimore’s declining population, city leaders urged Congress today to raise the federal minimum wage, pointing to the boost it would provide to Baltimore’s residents and to the city’s recovering economy.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young joined fellow council members, minimum wage workers, clergy, and community supporters to announce a plan to introduce a City Council resolution supporting the “Rebuild America Act,” which Democrats hope to bring to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives next month.
The bill would raise the federal minimum wage 85 cents a year for three years, bringing it to nearly $10 by late 2014. The law would then adjust the minimum wage each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living. It would also raise the sub minimum wage of $2.13 for tipped employees for the first time in more than 20 years.
“Too many of our neighbors are struggling to make ends meet on wages that have not kept up with the cost of rent, food or transportation,” Young said. ”Too many jobs in Baltimore have been replaced by low-wage jobs. If we don’t raise wages soon for our lowest paid workers, it will mean more families leaving our city, more small businesses that depend on consumer spending shutting their doors for good, and more vacant homes in our communities. Our city can’t afford inaction on this issue.”
Baltimore was one of just three major U.S. cities, along with Detroit and Cleveland, to experience a population decline in the last census. During the exodus of working families between 2000 and 2010, the city lost on average eight residents a day, represented at the press conference by eight silhouettes flanking presenters as they spoke. Baltimore’s dwindling population has paralleled the decline in good family-sustaining jobs in the once thriving regional shipping and manufacturing center. Currently, just 6 percent of jobs in the city are in mid-wage manufacturing while over 90 percent are in the low-paying service sector.
Bruce Gross, a minimum wage worker who spoke at today’s press conference talked about the hardships he faces trying to support his family on $7.36 per hour. ”I’m trying to raise three kids and two nephews on minimum wage and there isn’t enough for even the basic necessities. Raising the federal minimum wage could help end a huge struggle that families like mine face every day when we have to choose between paying bills and buying food or school supplies for our children.”
The wage increase would have a direct positive impact on the wages of 320,000 Marylanders and would generate $1 billion in new consumer spending in the state, according to Progressive Maryland. Tuesday’s press conference was part of a national day of action by leaders, activists and community organizations in 30 cities across the country urging Congress to pass the “Rebuild America Act.”