According to The Washington Post, the current minimum wage in Montgomery County, $10.75 an hour, exceeds most states by $3.50. On January 17, the Montgomery County Council approved a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. While the bill was later vetoed by county executive Isiah Leggett, the push for raising the minimum wage has sparked discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of the issue. A sudden, sharp increase in the minimum wage may see local businesses struggling to compete with neighboring areas, but will ultimately provide working adults and students with an improved quality of life.
Sophomore at Richard Montgomery Gillian Smith works above minimum wage as a choir singer, but occasionally picks up extra jobs paying minimum wage. “That’s about $88 for a big job. If the minimum wage were upped to $15, I’d earn $120 instead,” Smith described. “$32 more a month doesn’t sound like a lot, but I know that a lot of other people work a lot more hours at minimum wage than I do. So for them, the extra money that comes out of $15 an hour could pay for a semester of tuition at MC, or better living conditions.”
One of the primary complaints about the current minimum wage is its failure to provide standard living conditions. Over the years, Montgomery County has become more gentrified and consequently less accommodating for those with minimum wage or low wage jobs. “Even adding all of the hours I work in a month, I couldn’t live off of minimum wage where it is now,” continued Smith. “$15 is a living wage.”
For students, holding a job means more independence and financial security in the future. “I don’t need to work in order to afford a college tuition, and I don’t need to work in order to buy necessities. However, my job gives me freedom,” Smith added. “My parents aren’t big gift givers, so I’ve always been taught to conserve and save my money. Having my own income is a source of freedom.” Often, student incomes contribute to family earnings as well.
While parents are saving up for their child’s college education, an employed student can ease the financial burden of tuition or simply invest in their future. A higher minimum wage has a direct impact on the accessibility and affordability of higher education, which reaps invaluable benefits for all students. Currently, student loan debt haunts many students well into middle age. Raising the minimum wage can ensure that students enter adulthood with less debt and stress
However, local businesses may suffer as a result of raising the minimum wage. When wages increase, prices tend to increase in an effort to compensate for profit losses. This could drive away customers to competitors in other counties. A raise in the minimum wage would benefit individuals much more than businesses; however, these improvements are necessary in order to combat the many repercussions of poor living conditions.
For students especially, raising the minimum wage is a safety net for the future. “My parents are paying for my tuition but the rest is on me. Upping the minimum wage now is a protection of my health and financial security in the next ten years,” Smith finished. High schoolers are on the brink of entering higher education and the working world. A higher minimum wage would result in more opportunities and an overall smoother transition into adulthood.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Isabella Levine of Richard Montgomery High School