Baltimore’s Misguided Attempt to Raise the Minimum Wage

Guest Blog: Natalie Wyman

As the national debate over the minimum wage intensifies across the country, local entities are taking on the issue and analyzing the effects that sharply raising the minimum wage will have on their local communities.

Baltimore’s City Council is in the midst of a heated debate over raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. The bill is currently being evaluated by the council’s Labor Committee where it has been amended to include exemptions for qualifying small businesses and certain government programs like the Maryland Zoo and the YouthWorks Program.

Despite opposition to the wage hike from local businesses, Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke who proposed the increase refuses to move from the $15 an hour position. She responds to opposition by proclaiming, “It (minimum wage hike) will be a symbol of hope and promise.”

Proponents of minimum wage hikes, like Councilwoman Clarke, often fail to realize that symbolism does not prevent the layoffs that naturally follow an increase in the minimum wage. Symbolism does not halt the resulting increase in the cost of unskilled labor.

Councilwoman Clarke’s language dangerously tells a false narrative that skyrocketing the minimum wage will automatically lift the poor out of poverty. In fact, a recent study evaluating Seattle’s minimum wage increase found that there was overall “no effect on workers’ average total earnings.” Furthermore, by some calculations, these workers actually lost as much as $5.22 a week.

And Seattle’s minimum wage was only raised to $11 an hour! These effects will only compound as the minimum wage is set to $15 an hour. Heritage Foundation research fellow James Sherk recently concluded that a $15 an hour federal minimum wage would eliminate 7 million jobs!

Such drastic minimum wage increases only make it more difficult for workers to find employment. Unemployment is a far cry from “hope and promise.”

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