Testimony in Support of Maryland Minimum Wage Act of 2014 (SB 331/HB295)
February, 2014

The Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland represents 24 congregations from across the state, approximately 4,700 people of faith who understand that “love is the doctrine of this church, and service its prayer.” Our congregations include people who are working for the minimum wage. Our ministers provide pastoral care to minimum wage workers trying to better themselves and care for families. We do service to those who live in and near poverty, and we profess the worth and dignity of every individual.

Our principles affirm justice, equity and compassion in human relations. We live in a moment when nearly half a million people will benefit directly from raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as proposed by House Bill 295. I see this as a matter of equity in the richest state in the nation—that those working people on the very bottom of the economic ladder may see some benefit from the general prosperity our state is experiencing. I see this as a matter of racial and ethnic justice, as the majority of minimum wage workers are people of color; and of gender justice, as most minimum wage workers are women. Raising the minimum wage is, too, an act of compassion, recognizing that special attention must be paid by society at large—in this case, through the mechanism of our legislature—to those persons least represented in the halls of power and most affected by the indignity of a wage that keeps their family in poverty.

Unitarian Universalists call particular attention to the provision of HB-295 which increases the tipped sub-minimum wage from 50% to 70% of the minimum wage. Our Unitarian Universalist Service Committee works to raise consciousness among our members and the larger community about the reality of restaurant work, and 1,000 congregations nation-wide are participating in a common read of the book Behind the Kitchen Door, written by Unitarian Universalist-raised attorney and labor leader Saru Jayaraman. The three features of HB-295—a stepped increased to $10.10 an hour, indexed for increases in the cost of living, with a raise of the sub-minimum wage for tipped employees to 70% of minimum wage—comprise a law that will address the dignity of labor and the laborer, and be about justice, equity and compassion.

On behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland, on whose Board I sit, I urge a favorable report for this important legislation.

Please contact Rev. David Carl Olson, Senior Minister of the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore at (410) 350-9339 if you have any additional questions.