Faith-based community rallies for minimum wage increase in Maryland

BALTIMORE - Member of Maryland's faith-based community joined with local and state elected officials Monday in support of raising the minimum wage.

The rally in support of the measure took place at St. Vincent de Paul in Baltimore before a crowd of 100 supporters. The crowd included representatives from the Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Unitarian faiths along with human service organizations that spoke out about how increasing the minimum wage would improve the lives of the individuals and families that they serve.

"A strong middle class isn't a consequence of growth and prosperity; it's the source of growth and prosperity," said Governor Martin O'Malley in a statement. "And as our economy gets stronger, it's critical that we expand opportunity for hardworking families who play by the rules.

"That's why in Maryland, we're working to forge consensus around raising the minimum wage: to reward hard work by boosting the paychecks of 300,000 Marylanders, create more customers for Maryland businesses and grow the ranks of a diverse, upwardly-mobile middle class."

O'Malley has introduced legislation (SB 331/HB 295) in the Maryland General Assembly to raise has introduced legislation to increase the state's minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 and index it to the cost of living after that. The measure also includes a raise for tipped workers, increasing their pay from 50 to 70 percent of the minimum wage.

The proposed increase is similar to the one being supported by President Barack Obama.

"We must raise the minimum wage in order to restore hope and opportunity and to brighten the beacon as so many of our neighbors begin and continue on their journey out of poverty," said Bill McCarthy of Catholic Charities, in a statement.

The non-partisan Economic Policy Institute reported that approximately 455,000 Marylanders would benefit from the increase and would also pump $456 million more into the state's economy and create 1,600 jobs in the next two years.

Opponents of the increase have raised concerns that small businesses would not be able to handle the added cost to their payrolls and would be forced to cut staff to make up the difference.

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