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What Happens When a Poor City Raises Its Minimum Wage to $15?

Baltimore isn’t as economically healthy as Seattle or San Francisco. That can be an argument both for and against its new legislation.
A 2014 demonstration to raise the Maryland state minimum wage, which will rise to $10 in 2018. Baltimore, however, just passed legislation that would hike the city's minimum wage to $15.
A 2014 demonstration to raise the Maryland state minimum wage, which will rise to $10 in 2018. Baltimore, however, just passed legislation that would hike the city's minimum wage to $15. Jose Luis Magana/AP

Following in the footsteps of Seattle, San Francisco, and D.C., last night Baltimore, Maryland, passed legislation to increase its minimum wage to $15. But there’s one big difference between Charm City and those other three: It’s far less economically healthy. Baltimore would be the poorest city to join the “Fight for $15,” the national movement to mandate a $15 minimum wage. And that fact has been used as ammunition in arguments by both opponents and supporters of the legislation.

The minimum wage in Maryland is currently $8.75 per hour, scheduled to be raised to $10.10 in 2018. On Monday evening, Baltimore’s City Council voted 11 to 3 to approve a legislation that requires businesses to phase in a $15 per hour wage by 2022 (indexed to inflation). A similar bill had failed to get the requisite votes in August 2016, but this one had some added exceptions that satisfied council members who had earlier expressed concerns. For one, businesses with fewer than 50 employees would have until 2026 to adjust to the new threshold. Also, workers under the age of 21 can be paid less.