Baltimore mayor vetoes $15-an-hour minimum wage
Baltimore's Democratic mayor, Catherine Pugh, has vetoed a bill that would have raised the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The unprecedented veto of a "Fight for 15" wage bill by a Democrat points to the growing evidence from other cities that the economic damage caused by a $15-an-hour minimum isn't worth the job losses and economic slowdown that result from the increase.
The council meets April 3 and could overturn the Mayor's veto with support from 12 of the 15 members. It is unlikely that the council will veto the Mayor's decision, with the Baltimore Sun reporting that the coalition of supporter for the bill crumbled.
In 2016, former Democratic City Council President Bernard Young warned that any initiative to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour could cost new jobs.
Young asserted that a $15 per hour wage would hurt the city of Baltimore. "Maybe now is not the time for us to be doing this," Young said at the time, warning that the business community was monitoring the situation closely.
Such a wage increase should occur at a statewide level, Young argued, and not in the city by itself.
Recently elected members of the Baltimore City council supported veteran council member Mary Pat Clarke's proposal to raise the city's minimum wage to five dollars higher than surrounding communities, ignoring some longtime Democrats who have warned that such an increase could discourage new business opportunities for the city.
Clarke argued that a $15 wage provides "justice for the working people who have worked so hard to build this city and can't earn enough at their jobs to make ends meet."
Former President Barack Obama proposed an increase to the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour in 2013. The former president continued to call for an increase in the federal minimum wage throughout his presidency, siding with liberal activists, but stopping short of calling for a $15 federal minimum wage.
Left-leaning cities and states across the country have moved to increase its minimum wage, including Seattle, which raised its minimum wage to $15 in 2014, followed shortly thereafter by San Francisco and Los Angeles. Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a new $15 minimum wage for his state in 2016, and the University of California proposed to pay its low-wage employees $15.
Forbes columnist Tim Worstall notes that in Seattle, the first city to pass $15-an-hour legislation, the rate of restaurants failing has increased and the corresponding economic growth compared to the suburbs has lagged. The latter figure probably had more influence on Pugh than warnings about job losses, largely because there are not that many workers who are affected by the increase.
The real cost of the higher wage is in a reduction of entry-level jobs available to young people. This will affect the long-term prospects for employment for a class of people already disadvantaged by poor economic growth in major cities. A wage policy that ignores the actual worth of an employee to a company in favor of setting an arbitrary wage uncoupled from market forces is bound to cause problems that the proponents of a $15 minimum wage ignore at their peril.