Schmoke threatens to veto minimum-wage bill

November 01, 1994|By Harold Jackson | Harold Jackson,Sun Staff Writer

What had seemed like a done deal to set a minimum wage for school custodians, parking attendants and other service workers hired under contracts with Baltimore City was threatened with veto last night by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

The mayor said he was still committed to the concept of seeing some of the lowest-paid workers in the city be paid a "living wage." But he said the proposed measure approved last night by the City Council had flaws that might lead him to veto it.

The proposal would set a minimum wage of $6.10 an hour for employees of companies that have service and professional contracts with the city. That minimum wage would then grow in increments to $7.70 an hour in four years.

Mr. Schmoke said firms with professional management contracts should not have been included in the legislation. He said he never intended for private companies such as Centre Management, which operates the Baltimore Arena, to be required to follow the proposed minimum-wage guidelines when hiring subcontractors to handle maintenance at the facility.

"We never even discussed the issue of rewriting the arena contract," Mr. Schmoke said. "Second of all, our estimates of the cost of this bill were based on direct city contracting for a limited number of services."

Service contracts cost the city about $5.3 million last year and it was estimated that amount could increase another $1.2 million by requiring bidders to pay their employees at least $6.10 an hour.

Charlotte Humphrey, vice president of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD), said she could not understand Mr. Schmoke's objections since it was a task force appointed by him that met for five months and came up with the minimum-wage proposal.

If the measure sponsored by Council President Mary Pat Clarke becomes law, Baltimore will have done what BUILD leaders say no other city has done. BUILD also hopes to get private companies to promise to pay their workers a wage that a family can live on but has met with little success. Mr. Schmoke said he had prepared amendments for the proposed measure that would make it palatable to him and that he had given the amendments to BUILD and the council for review before he left last week on a visit to the Far East.

The council, however, gave preliminary approval to the measure on Oct. 24 without adding his amendments, the mayor said.

Third District Councilman Wilbur E. Cunningham attempted to amend the minimum-wage measure on Mr. Schmoke's behalf last night. He said the proposal as written would infringe on the Board of Estimates' authority to enter into contracts and set fiscal policy.

But the amendment was thrown out on a technicality.

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