The campaign for a living wage has focused much-needed attention on the needs of the working poor, resulting in a variety of worthy proposals. Raising the wages of the working poor above the poverty level remains essential for a long-term solution. Low wages and poverty are inextricably linked.
Itís only a matter of time before Montgomery County joins other jurisdictions in enacting a comprehensive living wage bill. Meanwhile, the Council should pursue several initiatives to bring about livable wages in the County. First, the Council should pass legislation that ensures a living wage for all county government employees. Second, beginning with next yearís budget, the Council should provide sufficient funds to needy non-profits who contract with the county to enable them to pay employees working on county contracts a living wage. Third, councilmembers should scrutinize economic subsidies to businesses proposed by the County Executive of $100,000 or more to determine if the County would be subsidizing companies that pay poverty-level wages. The Council can accept or reject proposed subsidies on a case-by-case basis.
Further, we will introduce a resolution requesting that the Council endorse national legislation now pending before the Congress to raise the national minimum wage by .50 cents this year and by another .50 cents next year. While not enough, it would help. As Mr. Duncan said on June 13, Congress needs to restore the buying power of the present minimum wage, which is now, at $5.15, insufficient.