On Tuesday, July 24, I joined members of 1199 SEIU MD/DC, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and my colleagues on the City Council to fight for fair wages for Maryland workers.
We met at City Hall to demand that Congress pass the “Rebuild America Act,” which Democrats hope to bring to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives next month. This legislation would raise the federal minimum wage for nearly 30 million American workers. Included in this figure are the nearly 1 million tipped workers – like waitresses, car wash attendants and nail salon workers –whose minimum wage of $2.13 per hour has remained unchanged for more than 20 years.
Let us begin the process of correcting this injustice, which has gone on far too long. As our country continues to struggle toward recovery, we should be reminded that consumer spending still drives 70 percent of the U.S. economy. Increasing wages for our lowest-paid workers is a sure way to help put money in the pockets of people who drive spending and are the engine of America’s economy.
Here in Baltimore, the “Rebuild America Act” represents more money for Baltimore’s families to pay for everyday necessities, like groceries and prescription medications. Many of these families, unfortunately, are struggling to remain part of the middle class. For them, the “Rebuild America Act” represents an opportunity to receive a fair wage in exchange for their hard work and daily contributions to growing America’s economy.
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 myself and other presenters as we 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 all jobs in the city are in mid-wage manufacturing, while over 90 percent are in the low-paying service sector.
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. Too many good jobs in Baltimore have been replaced by low-wage jobs.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.
I am encouraging every Baltimore City resident to call, email, write, Tweet and Facebook your federal legislators and tell them that you support the “Rebuild America Act” and demand that they do too.
Click HERE to find your local, state, and federal officials.