Baltimore Sun: What's in a wage? From pizza shop owners to house cleaners, voices on raising Maryland's hourly minimum to $15

By Pamela Wood and Lorraine Mirabella
The Baltimore Sun, Feb 11, 2019

Thousands of Maryland workers and business owners stand to be affected if state lawmakers raise the minimum wage from $10.10 per hour to $15. ... The proposal before lawmakers would raise the minimum wage to $11 per hour this summer, with a dollar increase each year after until it reaches $15. ...

Here’s a look at how some workers and business owners are viewing the issue.

Aaron Seyedian: Cleaning with a mission

Aaron Seyedian moved to Washington, D.C., to make a difference in the world, and when he found that his work was unfulfilling, he decided to put his money and his career on the line to test his values. ...

After some research, he founded Well-Paid Maids, a housecleaning service that pays its workers $17 per hour. ... Seyedian sets his cleaners’ starting pay based on a living wage calculator developed by a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His cleaners in the Washington area start at $17 per hour and when he expands to the Baltimore region this month, those workers will be paid $15 an hour.

To make the business work, Seyedian charges his customers more than other companies. For example, his most popular service is cleaning a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment. He charges $159, while a competitor charges $119. Even so, business is booming and the company is profitable.

Seyedian finds that his employees feel valued, work hard and stay with the company longer.

“I’m offering a real job and that’s a huge difference,” he said ...

Michael Lastoria: Pizza chain owner wants workers to feel appreciated.

It was about nine months in to running his first pizza restaurant that Michael Lastoria realized that it wasn’t enough to treat his employees well. He had to pay them more, too.

Lastoria is the founder of &pizza, a chain of 35 fast-casual pizza shops that he founded in 2012 in Washington. Working alongside his hourly employees in the months that his first shop was open, Lastoria learned how far a dollar stretched. So, he began raising wages and encouraging other businesses to do the same. ...

Lastoria said his employees, on average, make “north of $15” per hour. When District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a bill into law gradually increasing the District’s minimum wage, she did so in front of one of Lastoria’s shops.

If Maryland’s minimum wage is increased to $15, Lastoria said there’s a “high likelihood” that he’ll bump up his employees’ wages further.

“It has to do with taking care of our people, paying them as close to a living wage as possible and allowing them to be the face of the business and letting that vibe and culture drive the company forward,” he said.

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Copyright 2019 The Baltimore Sun

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