On Monday, Baltimore’s city council, which is composed of 15 Democrats, voted 11-3 to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022, local NBC affiliate WBAL 11 reports. One city council member did not vote.
Despite popular support among the city council and many Baltimore voters for the $15 minimum wage, Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh vetoed the minimum wage bill.
The veto came as a shock to the bill’s supporters, especially since Pugh had pledged to support a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour when she campaigned to become mayor.
“This is an impromptu response because we all were taken by surprise,” said councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, a cosponsor of the $15 minimum wage bill. “Shame, shame on letting the poverty that we have lived with shamefully for decades of the working poor continue on.”
Clarke and others had seen the bill as a means of addressing the economic hardship suffered by many of Baltimore’s residents, particularly the working poor.
— Tim Black ™ (@RealTimBlack) March 25, 2017
Pugh, however, argued that raising the minimum wage would hurt small businesses. She claimed to have met with several local business, civic, and religious leaders to discuss the potential impact of the bill on the city. She said that, based on those discussions, she was concerned that raising the minimum wage would do more harm than good for the local economy.
“So for those reasons, and the economic impact I think this has on the city, making us the hole in the doughnut, it is not appropriate at this time that I would sign this bill, so I am vetoing this bill,” Pugh said at a press conference, according to WBAL. “The other jurisdictions around us are waiting on the state, and we will do the same.”
Not all local business owners agreed with Pugh’s take on how raising the minimum wage would effect them.
Penny Trautner, owner of Light City Cycles in Baltimore, told WBAL she supports the bill.
“Some businesses, I think, would have been helped, and they didn’t know it,” Trautner said. “One thing you can tell, you can say that someone who is working a 40-hour-a-week job had a better chance of supporting themselves.”
In her statements, Mayor Catherine Pugh also suggested she prefers deferring to the state on the matter of minimum wage.
She noted that the minimum wage will increase statewide to $9.25 on July 1, and will then increase again, to $10.10, in 2018. She also hinted at the possibility of a new statewide bill that could potentially increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“There is a bill in Annapolis currently pushing for this, so while it may not take place this year or next year, I will follow the lead of the state,” Pugh said.
— Maryland for $15 (@MDfor15) March 26, 2017
The fight for a $15 minimum wage in Baltimore is not over yet though. Clarke said she is considering pushing for a vote to override the veto, which could come as early as mid-May.
“The chair and I will be talking to members about that very thing,” Clarke said “That’s almost all we have left. We need 12 votes to override the veto.”
The Fight for $15 campaign has become a national movement led by labor groups and progressive activists in recent years. It was a popular plank in Senator Bernie Sanders’ failed bid in the Democratic presidential primary last year, and his surrogates successfully pushed for having it added to the official Democratic Party platform.
The campaign has already seen some success, with several cities and states raising the minimum wage to $15 or implementing plans to do so. Despite warnings that doing so could cause local business to close, most reports indicate there hasn’t been “any measurable economic fallout” and that, instead, hundreds of thousands of workers, many of them women and minorities, have begun earning more livable wages.
[Featured image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]