Workforce

$15 wage moves forward in 4 more states

Statehouses aren't following the federal government's lead in forgoing new requirements on restaurants.

President Trump’s pro-business stance hasn’t discouraged state and local movements from raising the minimum wage, with drives for $15 an hour gaining momentum in at least four states.

The efforts are taking a variety of forms. In Florida, the nation’s third densest restaurant market, an advocacy group called Florida for a Fair Wage is lobbying to put an initiative on the 2020 ballot for a constitutionally guaranteed wage hike. The minimum, currently at $8.25 an hour, would rise to $10 on Oct. 1, 2021, and increase by $1 every year thereafter until 2026.

The push is being funded and fueled by Orlando lawyer John Morgan, seen by some as a potential candidate for governor in this year’s elections. Morgan has said he does not intend to run. Morgan’s support for a so-called living wage has been noted because he was a key force behind a referendum legalizing medical marijuana use in 2016.

A ballot proposal to raise the pay floor to $15 an hour would be put before voters this year in North Dakota if advocates of the minimum wage succeed in their quest. State Secretary of State Al Jaeger gave a green light to proponents last week to begin collecting the 13,452 signatures needed to put a referendum on the ballot.

Proponents of a $15 minimum wage for Ohio are turning to the legislature. A bill calling for a living wage by 2026 is expected to be pushed by Democratic lawmakers in both chambers of the state legislature, but the measures face stiff opposition from Republicans, who control both the House and Senate.

Maryland’s multiple proposals

At least three bills calling for a $15 minimum wage have been introduced in Maryland’s Senate. One of the proposals would disallow the state’s tip credit and require employers to provide servers with the full minimum wage, instead of allowing gratuities to count toward the amount.

The bills vary in the time frames they would set for reaching $15 an hour in stepped increases. One calls for hitting that threshold by 2022 for most companies and by 2026 for concerns that gross $400,000 or less annually. A second aims to climb to $15 by 2021 for large businesses, by 2023 for midsized enterprises and by 2024 for small ventures.

Opponents cited restaurants’ calculations of what a $15 wage would cost them. A coffee shop with four employees would see a $45,000 rise, they testified, using a real business as the basis for the projection. A pizzeria with a staff of 30 would be hit with a $151,000 increase in labor costs, and a business with 42 employees would see a $242,000 spike, according to testimony reported by MarylandReporter.com.

Hike proponents aren’t aiming as high as $15 an hour in Louisiana, one of five states that do not have a minimum wage. A packet of labor-related bills currently before the state Senate would set a first-time minimum for the state of $8 an hour starting Jan. 1, and $8.50 an hour a year later. Currently, the state adheres to the federal requirement that employers pay at least $7.25 an hour.

The group of proposals includes a measure that would permit employees to compare salaries without fear of retribution from their employers.

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