Friday, November 22, 2013

ACT NOW: One Vote Needed to Pass MoCo Minimum Wage // Fate of Prince George's & DC Hike Rests on $11.50/Hr in MoCo

CONTACT YOUR LOCAL OFFICIALS NOW:  In recent weeks, a battle has been brewing among government officials in Montgomery County, Prince George's County and the District of Columbia over efforts to pass minimum wage increases at the local level. Councilmembers in all three jurisdictions are poised to move a "regional minimum wage" of $11.50/hour that is indexed to the consumer price index (aka a minimum wage that increases as the cost of living rises). Note that a person working 40 hours week and who takes no vacations would make $23,920/year under the proposed $11.50/hour rate -- keeping them just above the $20,000 poverty line. Given the record high wealth inequality we've witnessed over the past few decades, this hardly seems like a radical proposal.

But efforts are afoot to weaken the bills in a way that threatens to derail the tenuous arrangement between a coalition of Councilmembers in MoCo, Prince George's & DC, who have all agreed to move an $11.50/hour minimum wage. While compromising on the amount of the wage increase would normally seem like fair game, in this instance, Prince George's lawmakers have a ready majority for $11.50 an hour but are waiting for Montgomery to act before pulling the trigger. A failure to pass the same rate increase will throw all sorts of unpredictability in the process and threaten to derail a historic economic justice pact between governments in the ever-expensive DC Metro region.

WHIP COUNT: Here's the current status of the $11.50/hour minimum wage proposals within the three participating jurisdictions:
MONTGOMERY COUNTY: The $11.50/hour minimum wage bill in MoCo is being sponsored by Councilmember Marc Elrich and co-sponsored by Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Valerie Ervin. Additionally, Councilmember George Leventhal has publicly supported an $11.50/hour minimum wage but tells Maryland Juice he would support a lower amount, "if that's what it takes to get a bill out of the full Council." That means there are currently four votes for an $11.50/hour minimum wage in MoCo, but one more vote is needed to pass the bill without weakening amendments. We also need to shore up Councilmember Leventhal's vote. The full MoCo Council votes on Tuesday and the members need to start hearing from you now - you can email all nine Councilmembers and the office of the County Executive by sending a message to In the meantime, here's a whip count for the nine Councilmembers:
Note that a key element to the MoCo wage hike is a plan to index the pay rate to the cost of living, so that we don't have to have this fight every few years. But all Councilmembers need to hear that you support an "indexed $11.50/hour minimum wage."
Meanwhile, County Executive Ike Leggett has indicated he will sign a minimum wage hike into law but prefers a $10.75/hour increase with no increase with rises in the cost of living. He has not yet declared whether he would veto an $11.50/hour minimum wage if approved by the County Council. Former County Executive Doug Duncan has stated he has problems with a county minimum wage increase and wants to wait for the state to act. The County Council votes this TUESDAY, so please email all nine Councilmembers and the office of the County Executive NOW by sending a message to
PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY: Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich, the sponsor of MoCo $11.50/hour proposal, indicates that a majority of the Prince George's County Council is prepared to approve the same plan in their county. However, P.G. lawmakers want certainty that Montgomery County to act and are scheduling their vote to occur immediately after MoCo passes an $11.50/hour wage rate. Meanwhile, County Executive Rushern Baker has expressed concerns about the proposal, and it is unclear whether he would sign it into law or veto the plan. Please contact Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker to urge his support for a minimum wage increase at: (301) 952-4131 or And please do the same for the P.G. Councilmembers - their contact info is available here.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Councilmember Vincent Orange and his colleagues are pushing an $11.50/hour minimum wage proposal, though Mayor Vincent Gray wants an "independent commission" to study the exact rate. If Montgomery and Prince George's pass an indexed $11.50/hour minimum wage, it seems likely that the D.C. Council will follow suit. Please contact Mayor Gray and urge his support at (202) 727-6300 or You can also find contact info for the D.C. Councilmembers here.

BOTTOM LINE?  IT'S NOW OR NEVER FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE - On Tuesday, all eyes in the region will be on the Montgomery County Council. If they pass an $11.50/hour minimum wage, I predict the Prince George's and D.C. Councils will do the same, and their Executives will more likely than not sign the bills into law. This would also help lay the political groundwork for a robust state minimum wage increase in Maryland. But if Montgomery County cannot summon the will to get this done, all bets are off, and the wrong message will be sent to lawmakers in Annapolis. Please contact all nine Montgomery County Councilmembers and the office of the MoCo Executive by sending a message to You can read some more context on the MoCo fight below:

The MoCo Council staff memo regarding the minimum wage proposal describes two amendments to the minimum wage hike proposal that will be considered by Councilmembers. The bill's lead sponsor Councilmember Marc Elrich proposes reducing his proposed $12/hour minimum wage to $11.50/hour to create a regional standard in tandem with the District of Columbia and Prince George's County:
MOCO COUNCIL STAFF MEMO: Councilmember EIrich intends to introduce an amendment to reduce the minimum wage in 2016 from $12.00 per hour to $11.50 per hour to be consistent with the anticipated regional minimum wage that may be adopted by Prince George's County and the District of Columbia.
Meanwhile, Councilmember Hans Riemer proposed an amendment to reduce the MoCo minimum wage increase even further to $10.75 (or $1 over the Maryland minimum wage). His amendment would stop MoCo's minimum wage from rising with increases in the cost of living. This foreshadows a fight that may begin brewing in Annapolis, if state lawmakers similarly try to stop the Maryland minimum wage from rising with the cost of living. The County Council's staff memo also described Riemer's amendment and its rationale (excerpt below):
MOCO COUNCIL STAFF MEMO: Councilmember Riemer intends to introduce an amendment that would set the County minimum wage in 2016 at the greater of $10.75 or $1 over the State minimum and remove the index to the CPI-U. Councilmember Riemer's amendment would make similar changes to the County minimum wage during the phase-in period....
COUNCILMEMER HANS RIEMER: Of the 45 states that have minimum wage laws, eleven (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) have inflation escalators. No state or locality in the Washington D.C. area currently has one. As of this moment, there is no assurance that the State of Maryland will adopt one.
Riemer's amendment may help explain why the advocacy group Jews United for Justice hosted a call-in day with its members asking Councilmember Riemer to support an $11.50 minimum wage. You can see the script they are asked members to read (excerpt below):
JEWS UNITED FOR JUSTICE: I'd like to thank the Councilmember for his commitment to raising the minimum wage in Montgomery County and for his leadership on raising the local EITC. Also, I appreciate the Councilmember proposing to amend certain provisions of the current minimum wage bill that would weaken the bill.

I think the Councilmember is a leader on progressive issues, however, I was disappointed to see he does not support a timeline that would raise the minimum wage to $11.50 by 2016. Workers in Montgomery County can't wait any longer.

I'm calling to ask Councilmember Riemer to join his colleagues in supporting an increase in the minimum wage to $11.50 per hour by 2016....
ONE LAST TIME: CONTACT YOUR COUNCILMEMBERS NOW - Please contact all nine Montgomery County Councilmembers and the office of the MoCo Executive by sending a message to

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