Business Owner Speaks at Press Conf. Launching Campaign to Raise Maryland Minimum Wage

John Shepley, Co-Owner of Emory Knoll Farms, Statement at Press Conference Launching Campaign to Raise Maryland Minimum Wage, James Senate Office Building, Annapolis, January 18, 2011

To arrange interviews with Mr. Shepley and other business people, contact Bob Keener, 617-610-6766 .

John Shepley is Co-Owner of Emory Knoll Farms Inc., a wholesale nursery located in Harford County, and chair of the board of the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Alliance. He is a lead signer on the new Business for a Fair Minimum Wage - Maryland Statement in support of raising the state minimum wage.

Small business owners like me know our fortunes are intertwined with the fortunes of our employees. It makes good long-term business sense for all businesses to pay their employees a better minimum wage. When we pay a higher starting wage:

We don’t lose people because they’ve found a better job. Our cost for higher wages is offset by increased individual productivity and savings from reduced turnover -- and avoiding all the expenses associated with hiring and training new employees.

A stable workforce is a well-trained and productive workforce.

I know from my own experience that a great compensation package means highly motivated and productive employees. This increases the bottom line:

I can count on our people to step up when our business needs demand a little extra. I can count on my employees looking after the quality of our products. I can count on employees understanding and anticipating our customer’s needs.

Our employees know we’ll stick by them when times are tough, and they will stick by us.

So let me emphasize: I know businesses can not only pay a better minimum wage and still make a profit  -- it helps the business prosper.

The least we can do for the working people of Maryland is to ensure that wherever they find work, that they can make a wage they can thrive on, not merely survive on.

A higher minimum wage makes good sense for our Maryland economy. It’s an important part of the solution for economic recovery and economic progress.

It puts money in the hands of people who will spend it -- put it right back into local businesses buying food, clothing, repairing their car, and other necessities. The money spent locally adds more jobs and boosts our economy.

Higher wages boost our tax base. Inadequate wages, on the other hand, increases the strain on our social safety net.

A higher minimum wage helps ensure that workers don’t go into risky debt to pay for necessities a minimum wage paycheck should cover.

When the minimum wage is too low it not only impoverishes workers, it weakens the consumer demand at the heart of our local economy.

I challenge anyone who thinks the minimum wage shouldn’t be raised, to try living on it.

I know from personal experience what a boost a better minimum wage is. I was raised by a single mother of three in rural West Virginia and we were relatively poor. One of my first jobs was a seasonal job at a family owned apple processing plant in our town, and it was a minimum wage type of job: stacking boxes. But I started at $3.60 an hour in a time when the federal minimum wage was $2.65 (which would be about $8.86 in today’s money). That extra money meant I could cover more of my own expenses and relieve the burden on my mom. It made a big difference for my family.

The right thing to do for Maryland workers and families is to move the minimum wage to a level where people can do more than “just survive.” That will help our local economy thrive.

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The Press Conference was hosted by Progressive Maryland and other speakers included state lawmakers, an economist and non-governmental minimum wage advocates.

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