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Why We Support Ben Jealous for Governor of Maryland

Local 400 Strongly Recommends Progressive Champion

Local 400 members living in Maryland would benefit greatly if they help elect Ben Jealous (D) their next governor, because he will fight for a $15 minimum wage, debt-free college tuition, bottom-up economic growth, universal health coverage, and a host of other pro-worker policies.

By contrast, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has repeatedly vetoed legislation our members need, like the Healthy Working Families Act. Fortunately, at Local 400’s urging, the General Assembly overrode Hogan’s veto and made paid sick leave state law.

That’s why Jealous, the former National President & CEO of the NAACP, received Local 400’s enthusiastic recommendation for his campaign to unseat Hogan.

“Ben has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to economic and social justice,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “Now more than ever, we need bold, visionary leaders like Ben to lead us on a new path to ensure every Marylander has the opportunity to earn a better life. We look forward to Ben bringing his much-needed fighting spirit to Annapolis.”

“I’m proud of the movement of working people we’ve put together over the past year,” Jealous said at a press conference announcing his endorsement by Local 400 and four other unions. “As a lifelong community organizer, I know that building a broader, more robust coalition than anyone thinks is possible is the only way to move forward on Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, and fully funding our schools.”

Jealous’ agenda for Maryland’s working families includes:

  • Raising the minimum wage to $15/hour and tying it to the state’s median wage, while also gradually eliminating the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers.
  • Implementing an economic policy that increases wage growth, supports small businesses, and expands prosperity across every sector and region of the state.
  • Ensuring that the more than 300,000 Marylanders who currently lack health care are covered through a Medicare-for-All system that delivers better care for less cost.
  • Making community college free for every Marylander and making all four-year public colleges debt-free for state residents.

By contrast, Hogan has continually opposed measures designed to improve the living standards and quality of life for Maryland workers. Specifically, he:

  • Vetoed the Healthy Working Families Act, which would have denied paid family leave to workers in the state had the General Assembly not overridden his veto.
  • Opposes a $15/hour minimum wage.
  • Let health insurance premiums in the state rise by a whopping 120 percent, while opposing efforts to lower prescription drug prices.
  • Rejected needed increases in school funding. He tried to cut $144 million from Maryland’s public schools in his first budget. In 2016, he pushed to cut $30 million in investments for after-school programs, college preparation, and teacher retention. And he has diverted $18 million from public schools to subsidize expensive private schools.
  • Allowed Maryland workers to fall behind their counterparts, taking home less than $1,000 in inflation-adjusted wage growth during his time as governor while workers nationwide took home more than $5,500 in wage growth, and Virginia workers gained an additional $8,000.

“Wage growth for Maryland’s families has fallen behind under Larry Hogan and we need new leadership to create an economy that is truly inclusive and meets the needs of our state,” Jealous said. “As a businessman and civil rights leader, I know how to build an economy that leaves no family behind, no worker behind, no young person behind, and no person behind who has paid their debt to society and deserves a second chance. With new leadership, we can increase wage growth, support our small businesses, retain more of our own start ups and expand prosperity across every sector and region of our state.”

Federici urged Local 400 members in Maryland not only to vote for Jealous but to work for his election. “The more our members volunteer to make calls, knock on doors, and take other steps to elect Ben our next governor, the greater our chances of getting a true ally, advocate and fighter for our interests in the governor’s mansion,” he said. “I encourage everyone to do their part.”

Montgomery County Passes $15 Minimum Wage

Members of the Montgomery County Council were joined by County Executive Ike Leggett at a ceremony on Monday, November 13 where a $15 minimum wage was signed into law. Photo courtesy of 32BJ SEIU.

Today, at a ceremony in Rockville, county council members signed legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 in Montgomery County, Maryland.

The council unanimously passed legislation last week to raise the wage to $15 per hour for businesses employing 51 or more workers by 2021, for businesses employing 11-50 employees by 2023, and for businesses employing 10 and fewer employees by 2024.

After it reaches $15/hour, the bill requires the minimum wage to be indexed to inflation, so wages will continue to rise without having to work to pass a new bill every few years!

The county joins neighboring Washington, D.C. in providing a $15 minimum wage. More than 100,000 Montgomery County workers earn minimum wage, currently $11.50/hour.

In Montgomery County today, a single worker without family responsibilities needs to earn more than $21 per hour just to meet basic needs. A worker raising children needs much more. A majority of the people earning minimum wage are women and people of color.

UFCW Local 400 was part of a coalition of organizations who led efforts to pass this legislation, including 32BJ SEIU,  CASA, Jews United for Justice, Progressive Maryland, AFL-CIO Labor Council, Maryland Working Families, and the National Employment Law Project (NELP). While the bill ultimately passed unanimously with the full support of the council, councilmembers Marc Elrich, Tom Hucker, Nancy Navarro, George Leventhal, and Hans Riemer championed the legislation from the very beginning.

Research has shown that overwhelmingly, cities that have raised the wage have not experienced job loss and the local economy continues to prosper. Moreover, a wage increase can reduce reliance on public assistance from a safety net that faces extreme cuts from the Trump administration, placing a heavier burden on local taxpayers.