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From 'Too Radical' to Spreading Nationwide: Maryland Becomes 6th State to Pass $15 Minimum Wage

"We're not done. Next we will pass a national $15 minimum wage," said Sen. Bernie Sanders

Demonstrators rally in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. (Photo: United Healthcare Workers East–Maryland/DC Division)  

In the latest major victory for the Fight for $15 movement, Maryland on Thursday became the sixth state to pass $15 minimum wage legislation after lawmakers overrode the veto of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

"Just a few years ago we were told a $15 an hour was 'too radical. Well, today, Maryland became the sixth state to send the loud and clear message that a job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

"More than six years ago, when we stood up and went on strike for $15 an hour and a union, our demands were dismissed," Fight for $15 said in a statement. "But we kept marching and we kept fighting, forcing the country to see that we simply could not survive on $7.25."

"Maryland is the sixth state to pass a $15 minimum wage—and the third in under two months," Fight for $15 continued, referring to Illinois and New Jersey's recent minimum wage hikes. "Nearly 30 percent of U.S. workers are now coSvered by a $15 minimum wage. It's clear $15 an hour is the minimum any worker, anywhere, needs to get by, and we'll keep standing up and fighting for $15 and union rights until we win everywhere."

Under Maryland's new law, the higher minimum will be phased in over several years, reaching $15 an hour for companies with 15 or more employees by 2025. Smaller companies will have to pay their workers $15 an hour by 2026.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—the lead Senate sponsor of the Raise the Wage Act, which would hike the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024—applauded Maryland lawmakers for taking action.

"Just a few years ago we were told a $15 an hour was 'too radical," the senator and 2020 presidential candidate tweeted Thursday. "Well, today, Maryland became the sixth state to send the loud and clear message that a job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it."

"We're not done," Sanders added. "Next we will pass a national $15 minimum wage."

Maryland's passage of $15 minimum wage legislation comes as centrist Democrats are reportedly threatening to oppose the House version of the Raise the Wage Act, led by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.).

Scott's legislation is currently co-sponsored by over 200 House Democrats.

According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour "would lift pay for a quarter of all workers in the United States, including those in the 21 states stuck at the current federal level of $7.25."

"The victory in Maryland... underscores that $15 is the new mainstream consensus in the United States," Christine Owens, NELP's executive director, said in a statement Thursday. "Workers are facing the same spiraling costs of living everywhere and we're seeing voters demand progressive leadership on economic and other issues."

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