$15 minimum wage approved in Montgomery County

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$15 minimum wage approved in Montgomery County

Graphic by Charlotte Alden.

Graphic by Charlotte Alden.

Graphic by Charlotte Alden.

Graphic by Charlotte Alden.

By Jessica Buxbaum

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The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to raise the countywide minimum wage to $15 per hour Nov. 7. The law will be implemented incrementally between 2021 and 2024 based on each individual business’ number of employees and will continue to increase beyond $15 to account for inflation.

The wage will apply to all employees with a few exceptions regarding workers younger than 19 working fewer than 20 hours per week and workers younger than 20 in their first six months of employment.

Community members and council members debated the possibility of raising the minimum wage for many months, councilmember Joseph Hamlin said.

I understand there will be winners and losers,” councilmember George Leventhal said in a press release. “I do not take lightly the concerns of employers who will find that a wage mandate makes it difficult for them to pay the rent, keep the lights on, or even stay in business.”

Many small business owners echo these concerns, Leslie Poyourow, owner of Fancy Cakes by Leslie, said.

“It’s extremely difficult,” Poyourow said. “When you have a lot of your staff at minimum wage and then you’re giving them increases but the economy is not going up, it’s definitely a hardship. I’ll raise my prices because that’s all you can do, but you can’t raise prices as much as that impact is.”

For workers, the wage increase will potentially bring about freedom and opportunities.

“If I had a $15 wage, I would be able to devote more time to going back to school and maybe afford my own place,” an anonymous Pieology Pizza employee said. “I’d be more motivated to work hard, and it would just give me a lot more options.”

While the idea of making money excites some students, others acknowledge the hardship it presents for businesses.

“I would definitely be more motivated to find more opportunities to work more,” junior Nathan Schaefer, who works at Koa Sports, said. “But, if the job that a high school student works at doesn’t require as much qualification or experience, then $15 might be a stretch for businesses to pay every employee.”

Council members expressed confidence in the law’s ability to help the county’s minimum wage employees that need it most.

“This bill will help them earn enough to put a roof over their heads, feed their families and not have to choose between food on the table and medical visits,” councilmember Marc Elrich said in a press release.

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