Proposed $15 minimum wage unprecedented

Posted on August 03, 2016

AS Baltimore debates a $15 minimum wage, The Sun recalled how the city faced a similar decision in 1964. In fact, today’s proposal is far more extreme (“This isn’t the first time Baltimore has debated the minimum wage,” July 29).

The 1964 proposal that the City Council considered was for a one-dollar hourly minimum wage. Adjusted for inflation, that’s equivalent to $7.78 per hour in today’s dollars — about a dollar less than the current $8.75 starting wage in Maryland. Suffice it to say that small businesses would be far less concerned if this were the proposal on the table in Baltimore.

The $15 figure contemplated by the City Council is unprecedented not just in Maryland but in the entire history of the federal minimum wage. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal starting wage has averaged $7.40 an hour on an inflation-adjusted basis since its creation in 1938.

Some council members may still desire a $15 minimum wage as a favor to the labor unions that support them. But they shouldn’t pretend there’s any economic or historical precedent for that number.