A Prince George’s County delegate has proposed legislation that would prevent counties and municipalities from enacting their own minimum wage.
Del. Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s County) sponsored the bill, along with two delegates from Charles County, which would prevent localities from raising their minimum wage above the state standard, which is $8.75.
The legislation would also prohibit municipalities from enacting certain other employee protections and benefits, such as guaranteed paid sick leave.
Such a law could clearly have a major impact on many University of Maryland students working minimum wage jobs both on and off campus.
Although this university is not required to pay its employees the Prince George’s County minimum wage of $10.75 and follows, rather following the state minimum wage instead, many students also work at off-campus service industry jobs at the many businesses in College Park.
College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn sees the proposed standardization of the state minimum wage as potentially harmful to students of this university.
“We have a real problem with lack of affordable student housing in College Park,” he said.
Wojahn isn’t wrong. According to AreaVibes.com, the average cost to rent an apartment in College Park is $1,471 per month, 59 percent higher than the national average. High costs of livingCosts of living this high make it difficult for students working minimum wage jobs to make ends meet.
“[People] need to be able to work and get a wage to make them be able to live in the community in which they’re working,” said Wojahn.
Davis argues that the benefit of the law would be to set a state standard and eliminate inconsistency across cities and counties, making Maryland more attractive to businesses.
“We’re not a collection of 24 individual fiefdoms,” he told the Washington Post.
However, Wojahn believes that Maryland’s economic diversity makes separate wage laws an asset.
“Maryland is a very diverse state, with different costs of living in Montgomery County or Prince George’s County, compared to Worcester or Wicomico Counties,” he said.
As Wojahn points, the cost of living in the suburbs of D.C. is higher than the Eastern Shore.
In response to this disparity, the D.C. City Council recently unanimously approved raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2020.
Montgomery County followed suit, passing their own version of the $15 minimum hourly wage law.
Although the county’s attempt was eventually vetoed by County Executive Isiah Leggett, the vote was consistent with a nationwide trend to push for higher minimum wages. Both Seattle and San Francisco have adopted $15 minimum wages, along withamong several other municipalities.
Historically, Maryland has been a leader in the movement to protect workers’ wages. In the 1960s, Baltimore was the first city to set a local minimum hourly wage.
Since then municipalities in Maryland —, like Prince George’s County and Montgomery County —, have continuously led campaigns to set local wages higher than the federal and state minimum wages.
And while Davis and his co-sponsors see their bill as protecting business, Wojahn is concerned that the law would drive away potential new residents of College Park who can’t afford to live off of too low of a minimum wage.
“It makes it challenging for people to be able to live here,” he said.