Living wage laws don't hurt employers

July 22, 2010

The current bill making its way through the Baltimore City Council to require retailers with gross sales over $10 million to pay their employees a living wage is an important piece of legislation which was unnecessarily maligned by columnist Marta Mossburg ("Baltimore can't live with this 'living wage' bill," July 20).

Every study which has been conducted on living wage laws has shown they do not increase the cost to employers, because the higher wages paid lead to decreased turnover, which lowers the costs of hiring and training as well as reducing workplace errors. As the op-ed references, Baltimore City has had a living wage law for city contractors on its books since 1994, but Ms. Mossburg fails to cite any information from the 1999 study done by the Economic Policy Institute about the effects of the law, available at http://epi.3cdn.net/63b7cb4cbcf2f33b2d_w9m6bnks7.pdf.

The study finds that the cost of contracting was not increased by the law. For more evidence, the Department of Legislative Services did a study on the 2007 Living Wage law for state contractors and found no increase in the cost of contracting to the state (see http://www.chamberactionnetwork.com/documents/LivingWage.pdf).

Following Baltimore's pioneering example, over 120 localities have passed living wage laws across the country, and what study after study has found is that these laws do increase the pay of employees while decreasing the hidden costs employers pay for low-wage labor.

We at Progressive Maryland hope that in the future Ms. Mossburg would take the time to review the actual evidence gathered about public policies she opines about rather than rest on her ideological prejudices and interviews with like-minded talking heads.

Rion Dennis

The writer is acting executive director of Progressive Maryland

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