On July 24, 2009 the Maryland minimum wage increases from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour, along with the federal minimum wage. That is an increase of 70 cents, and an increase of $2.10 in just over two years.
The other states on the same schedule are Nebraska, Kentucky, Idaho, Indiana, North Carolina, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and Utah.
More than half of the states in the U.S. have rates that are above the federal minimum. The rest are either equal to or below the federal level. Some states have a cost of living increase and some do not.
Five states do not have minimum wages. They are Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Employers in those states who are not covered by federal minimum wage laws could legally pay their workers 10 cents an hour. Whether or not they would find anyone willing to work for that rate is another matter.
Among the states that have established minimum wage laws, the hourly rates vary by almost $6 an hour. At the high end of the chart is Washington State, with a minimum of $8.55 hourly. At the very bottom is Kansas, with a pay rate of $2.65 an hour. The difference between the two states is $5.90 an hour.
In second place is Oregon, at $8.40. The Vermont minimum wage is (more…)
Workers at Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles, have delayed a planned hunger strike to protest low wages until Saturday September 8, 2007. The workers reached the decision after hearing encouraging words about an increase in wages from the governor at a Labor Day prayer service and rally at the Light Street Presbyterian Church.
Workers insist that the issue is dignity and respect, rather than simply money. “Every time I go to work here, I feel like less of a person because of what I have to go through,” said Lamont Pollard. He also said that workers are not given rubber gloves and other needed supplies, and are required to eat their meals in the restrooms. Pollard has worked for 3 years cleaning up after games. “When I leave, I feel better – like I just got out of jail. It shouldn’t be like that,” he added.
Workers displayed a sign that read, “Now we hunger for justice”, a quote from Cesar Chavez, the Mexican-American labor leader who regularly launched hunger strikes to protest unfair working conditions, especially among migrant farm workers.
The state-owned facility is operated by the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA), which also operates the M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens. The MSA is the largest employer of day laborers in the city, with 150 to 200 workers cleaning up after each game.
The United Workers Association (UWA) has been demanding a living wage for workers who clean up after baseball and football games. UWA, a human rights group founded by homeless day laborers in Baltimore, contends that the state exploits the contract workers, many of whom are African American, by paying low wages. As a state agency, the MSA is exempt from the city’s living wage of $9.62 per hour.
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley expressed support for the living wage for the part-time workers. MSA chief Frederick W. Puddester concurred. The MSA board is scheduled to meet on Thursday, September 6, to discuss rebidding of the cleaning contracts. The new contracts would go into place after the end of the 2007-2008 football season.
“We hope that by postponing the hunger strike, we can provide the MSA [with] the breathing room required to come to a just decision,” said Rose Menustik, a UWA organizer. Menustik added that she hoped the MSA would “come to a just decision and turn actions and intentions into commitments.”
Scores of workers, along with labor organizers and union reps, crowded in the courtyard behind the Federal Hill church, enjoying snacks including muffins, bagels, and fruit. Workers say that they pick up trash and clean the bathrooms at the Orioles and Ravens stadiums during and after each game. They average $7 per hour. Under current metropolitan law, service contracts with the city must pay at least the living wage of $9.62. A loophole, however, allows the MSA to award contracts to cleaning companies who pay much less.
Under the Maryland Living Wage law, which goes into effect on October 1, 2007, state government contractors must pay $11.30 per hour in the Baltimore-Washington metro area, and $8.50 in other parts of the state. This is just one of many metro living wage laws in the U.S. In order to qualify for this rate, workers must work for 13 consecutive weeks over the life of the contract. Because of the many away games, the contract cleaners are often idle for a week or more, which disqualifies them under the law.
MSA Chair Puddester claims that he has been in favor of a living wage for the contract cleaners since the matter was brought to his attention last month. “Can the stadium authority argue that they’re exempt on a technicality? Yes, they could. But I don’t plan to take that approach.”
When the full 7-member board is present at a public meeting on Thursday, Puddester plans to ask the members to specify that bids for the 2008 baseball season and 2008-2009 football season specify that workers be paid a living wage.
Here’s a reminder for every employer: FLSA regulations require that employees receive no less than the minimum wage of $5.15 for the first 40 hours of the workweek, and time-and-a-half for any work in excess of that. Employers are also required to keep accurate payroll records.
A Maryland tree-trimming company must pay back wages to more than 2,500 of its workers in 16 states after it was found violating the federal and Maryland minimum wage laws. The Labor Department investigation means the firm owes those employees $1.8 million dollars.
Labor Department officials got a tip from a worker about the failure to pay the minimum wage, and subsequently learned that ABC has been breaking the minimum wage law in 16 states. It was also violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FSLA says employees must be paid $5.15 an hour for the first 40 hours in a workweek, plus time-and-a-half for anything over 40 hours. The employer must also keep time and payroll records that are accurate.
The U.S. Labor Department and U.S. Attorneys from several states teamed up in 2006. The mission of the task force they formed is to probe and prosecute violations of labor laws in the Gulf Coast region. Their more specific concerns are crimes of employers in hurricane-affected regions, such as Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
“We are pleased,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, “that we were able to help these workers get the back pay they deserve.” She said the department would continue working to guarantee workers are being paid properly by their employers.
Besides paying back wages to its Maryland employees. ABC is paying workers from Ohio, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia, Cincinnati, Maine, New York, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Maryland.
The firm cleans up after natural disasters, including hurricanes. Some of the workers it is paying back worked on cleanup following Hurricane Katrina. It also cleans up and trims and cuts trees around power lines for utility companies.
It is worth every salaried employee checking out the federal and Maryland minimum wage laws. Many workers make the mistake of thinking that if they are paid a salary then they are not entitled to overtime compensation payments if they work long hours of over 40 hours a week. This is an easy mistake to make, as it is not widely known to employees that they might be entitled to overtime payments, and many companies like to keep it this way.
Wal-Mart Inc. is one company that recently ran afoul of federal and Maryland minimum wage laws. Under the agreement made, they had to compensate nearly 87,000 employees in Maryland and throughout the country to the extent of $33 million. This consists of back wages and interest.
Apparently, Wal-Mart tried to get around the laws by employing trainee managers, programmer trainees and interns, on a salaried basis. They had to work long hours without receiving any overtime payments, as they were salaried.
However, the US Dept of Labor ruled that these employees, and many like them are “non-exempt salaried” workers. Quite simply, this means that although they were paid a salary, they were entitled to overtime payments.
General guidelines state that to be entitled to such overtime payments, the majority of workers must earn less than $455 per week (that is, $23,660 a year), and work more than 40 hours per week. If they fulfil these criteria then they are entitled to overtime payments for any hours over the 40 hours that they work each week.
Managers and other salaried workers that earn higher wages, must have decision-making powers within the organisation. Often, as in the case of Wal-Mart, they needed to have the power to hire or fire three members of staff as a minimum requirement.
The salaried staff at Wal-Mart did not have these powers, neither did they have any staff supervision roles.
When the governor of Maryland, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., vetoed the living wage bill last year, the Democratic leadership in the state legislature had decided not to try to override the veto, unlike the Democratic leadership currently in the House and the Senate in Washington DC, who just tried last week to override President Bush’s veto of their supplemental spending bill, a package bill that included among other things the federal minimum wage bill.
The Maryland Democrats on the state level, on the other hand, had instead moved on to try to get the state a new Maryland minimum wage increase. Their thoughts, according to my sources, was that a minimum wage bill in the state of Maryland would have a greater initial impact than a living wage bill. The governor of the state at the time, still Gov. Ehrlich Jr., tried to veto the Maryland minimum wage bill—which raised the state minimum wage to $6.15 per hour—but this time the legislature had enough votes to override the veto and get the state minimum wage bill passed.
Then a new governor was elected this year in the state mansion, a man by the name of O’Malley. During his State of the State speech, the governor announced that he openly supported a living wage bill. That gave new impetus to the bill, though it took all legislative session pretty much for the bill to make it to the governor’s desk. At one point, according to one expert, the living wage bill almost died in a committee in the House.
It was eventually the governor who put together a compromise—the reason that there is a two tiered system in the living wage bill—that allowed the bill to be passed. Now for employer in Maryland who work on state contracts, the obvious impact is an automatic raise to their employees. And like I said, I will dig deeper to see if a living wage poster is on the way too.