1199ers joined with Good Jobs Better Baltimore, elected leaders, and faith and youth organizations at a Baltimore City Hall press conference on July 24 to announce support for the “Rebuild America Act” before Congress.
The bill would raise the federal minimum wage 85 cents a year for three years, bringing it to nearly $10 by late 2014. It would then adjust the minimum wage each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living.
As concern grows over Baltimore’s declining population, speakers pointed to the boost that a higher federal minimum wage would provide to Baltimore’s struggling residents and to the city’s recovering economy.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, along with Councilmembers from across the city, announced plans to introduce a City Council resolution supporting the “Rebuild America Act.”
“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,” Young said. “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.”
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 presenters as they spoke.
“I’m trying to raise three kids and two nephews on minimum wage, and it isn’t enough for even the basic necessities,” explained Bruce Gross, a Baltimore resident who spoke at the press conference. “Raising the federal minimum wage could help end a huge struggle that families like mine face every day when we have to choose between paying bills and buying food or school supplies for our children.”
The “Rebuild America Act” would raise the wages of 28 million American workers, generate more than $25 billion in new consumer spending, and help create 100,000 new jobs, according to the National Employment Law Project.