The Montgomery County Council voted on November 7 to raise the minimum wage in the county to $15 for employees by 2024.
Councilmember Sidney Katz approved this bill because he believes the time frame provides enough time for businesses to adjust to the new minimum wage. “If businesses are forced to close, people lose their jobs and we end up hurting the very people we set out to help,” Katz said before the vote. “This legislation strikes a balance.”
Large businesses with at least 51 employees will have to start paying their employees at least $15 per hour on July 1, 2021. Mid-sized businesses with 11 to 50 employees will have to pay the wage by July 1, 2023. Small businesses with fewer than 11 employees will be required to pay the wage by July 1, 2024.
However, since nonprofit leaders previously told the council it would be difficult for them to pay the higher wage, large nonprofit organizations that perform community-based services were given more time to adjust to the raised minimum wage. Organizations that have at least 51 employees do not have to pay the $15 minimum wage until July 1, 2023.
Tipped workers will continue to receive a base wage of at least $4 per hour, but their employers are required to make up any difference if the amount made in tips do not equal the $15 minimum wage rate.
Healthcare support, personal service and care, cleaning and maintenance, and food service occupations are expected to be most affected by the wage increase. These occupations have an average hourly wage of $13.33 which is much lower than the $15 minimum.
Companies that pay less than the future minimum wage will be required to increase their employee’s wages by increments. These incremental pay increases will continue until the businesses have met the required $15 minimum.
The council also approved an amendment to enact future increases in the minimum wage according to the Consumer Price Index for the Washington-Baltimore area. This index is used to measure inflation. Further increases in the minimum wage will account for the constant growth in inflation each year.
The decision to raise the minimum wage has mixed reactions. Marlon Tabora, a sophomore from Winston Churchill High School, supported the increase in the minimum wage: “I always support a minimum wage increase because believe it or not, it helps people a lot.”
Alan Zhang, a freshman from Winston Churchill High School, said, “I personally don’t like the minimum wage increase because it seems like it would cause more people to lose their jobs instead of increasing their salaries. But I also like it in the sense that it may cause more people to seek better employment opportunities.”
Montgomery County and the District of Columbia are the only two counties in the region to approve a $15 minimum wage. The wage is more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Bilal Choudry of Winston Churchill High School