By Brian England
The Star Democrat (MD), March 6, 2019
When my wife and I founded our auto shop in Columbia in 1978, I was our only skilled technician. As BA Auto Care has grown over the years, paying our employees fair wages and benefits has been central to our success.
What we’ve paid in higher compensation, we have more than reaped in long-term loyalty, low turnover, high numbers of return customers and referrals, and consistent growth. Indeed, it is because of my excellent employees that my business has won numerous awards over the years, including Maryland Small Business of the Year and Best of Howard County for over 25 years.
As we see every day on the shop floor, fairly paid employees provide better service, work harder and are more productive.
On top of this, they stay with us for a long time and develop a rapport with customers, which is very good for business. Customers want to see the people they trust, year after year—not a constantly rotating staff with no knowledge of their preferences and history.
It makes far more sense to have a higher minimum wage and lower turnover than a low minimum wage with high turnover, and the expenses associated with it.
We give our employees opportunities to grow. And they help our business grow.
Gradually raising the minimum wage will help businesses that currently pay the minimum wage to provide a better service and products. They will find that employees work harder and are more productive. They will have happier customers.
I strongly favor raising Maryland’s minimum wage to $15. Maryland’s state minimum wage of $10.10 does not provide an adequate a wage floor for working people and our consumer-driven economy.
When some businesses pay so little their employees can’t make a living, it hurts everyone. All too often, I have seen working people have to choose between replacing bald tires and replacing a battery. It’s bad for workers and businesses that people working full-time have to make choices like that.
Raising the minimum wage puts more money in the hands of those who most need to spend it—on groceries, rent or car repairs. When wages are raised at the bottom, money goes straight back into businesses and the community.
A fair minimum wage is an important stepping-stone in larger efforts to revitalize local communities, help small businesses build their customer base, stabilize families, and rebuild the social contract between employers and workers.
It is widely acknowledged by economists that the best long-term business climate is one that promotes broad and sustained prosperity – with a strong wage floor and a growing middle class in communities small and large, urban or rural.
When businesses don’t pay adequate wages, working people struggle to keep a roof overhead and food on their table and turn to food banks, food stamps and other assistance. This is a very inefficient way to run an economy.
It is time for those businesses that pay wages their employees can’t live on to pay their way. This will level the playing field among businesses and reduce the need for government assistance to fill in gaps left by employers who pay poverty wages. And it’s not just the government – thousands of non-profits are also filling the gap.
Raising the minimum wage lifts everyone up. Workers and their families can rely less on the social safety net. And businesses will benefit as workers regain the buying power they’ve lost as the minimum wage has eroded.
To me, the path forward is clear: Maryland needs to enact a state increase to $15. Doing so will infuse communities across Maryland with more robust consumer spending, decrease the strain on the social safety net and strengthen the economy.
Raising the minimum wage will benefit all of us—our businesses, our communities and our state. Let’s move Maryland forward.
Brian England is the co-owner of BA Auto Care in Columbia and a member of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.
Copyright 2019 Brian England
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