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By Delonte Harrod
The Intersection Magazine, Feb 28, 2023

Before Gov. Wes Moore went and testified before the Maryland House of Economic Matters Committee at 1 p.m. on Feb. 27, he met with business leaders and an employee, Antonia Brown, to hear about the importance of passing the Fair Wage Act (HB549). The Fair Wage Act would help to speed up the state of reaching the $15 minimum wage point by Oct. 1, 2023. ...

Other attendees included: Carmalita Marshall, funeral director and embalmer at March Funeral Homes, Michael Lastoria, founder and CEO of &Pizza, Gina Schaefer, owner of a Few Cool Hardware Stores, Aaron Seyedian, owner of Well-Paid Maids, Jenny Kraska, executive director of Maryland Catholic Conference, Comptroller Brooke Lierman, Maryland Department of Labor Acting Secretary Portia Wu, and Maryland Department of Commerce Acting Secretary Kevin A. Anderson.

Seyedian, who has businesses in Montgomery and Prince George’s County, pays his employees $22 per hour. Paying employees and potential employees this amount, Seyedian said, allows his company to recruit more easily, mitigates turnover, and  “is simply the right thing to do.” 

“A big part of what were are doing, even in cleaning, which is, traditionally, an exploitative industry, is to show that we…can do it in a pro-worker way and that you run a viable and successful business,” he said. 

Due to the fact that his company pays $22 per hour, Seyedian said potential employees sometimes disbelieve that this is the pay, while also offering benefits. 

“I think this speaks a little bit to our pay and benefits, but also to how frequently job seekers get burned by things that sound too good to be true,” he said. “For example, there are a lot of firms that operate with misclassified 1099s. A job posting might say, ‘This job pays $25 an hour.’  But actually, it is as a contractor [position]. So the employee is not getting taxes taken out, they're going to get a big bill at the end of the year, and they don’t have access to unemployment insurance or workers' compensation if they hurt themselves. So people don’t find that they have gotten a raw deal until around tax time. It’s dodgy out there.” ...

If the bill is passed, Maryland will join other states, including DC, with indexing the minimum wage. Lastoria, founder of &Pizza, said there is this myth that indexing would be bad for businesses. But he said this hasn’t been true for his business and others. 

“The idea that every year or every few years, you have a certain cost that is going to go up by a certain increment, based upon a formula, is a normal part of owning a business,” said Seyedian. “We are used to paying for things this way. We are used to budgeting this way. It’s marginal. It is so much less important than the question of, like, do I have more customers this year versus if the unit price of a wage is going to go up by a certain number of percentage points.” ...

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