Maryland labor laws could kill businesses

January 12 – As the legislature gets back to work in Maryland, the topics up for discussion have been making businesses – particularly small businesses – more than a little nervous. 

First, there’s the minimum wage. It’s supposed to bump up to $15 an hour over the next two years, but legislators would like to accelerate that. They want the $15 now and people are worried that means down the road, the minimum wage could jump to $20 an hour. 

One of the real issues is that a number of businesses may have employees close to $15 an hour, but bumping new hires to $15 means the senior employees would want comparatively more. 

If you’ve been at a company for, say, seven years, and have worked your way up to around $15 an hour and suddenly, laws have been put into place that the new guy coming in will make exactly the same, doesn’t that seem a little unfair? 

So it’s pretty clear to see how tough it’s going to be for the small business owner. 

Paul Frey, president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce said, “It just accelerates all the cost, especially for small businesses.” 

Maryland legislators also passed the Time to Care Act last April, which includes a paid family and medical leave insurance program that allows an employee to take up to 24 weeks of paid leave a year with certain circumstances. 

To be clear, that’s six months. 

Frey said, “We’re not against giving people time off when they have to take care of family, when they’re sick of they have a new child. We’re saying let’s be fair about it. Let businesses figure this out. Let us work with our employees. It’s in our best incentive to keep people employed. This labor market is so tight, we can’t afford to lose anybody. So it’s just cost after cost after cost.” 

Legislators are also looking at a universal basic income for young people transitioning out of foster care. 

Frey said, “So we’re going to guarantee an income once they turn a certain age, whether they’re working or not. We just think the business community and the public at large can figure this out without our elected officials telling us how to do it. The main concern is there may be a surplus in Maryland of money right now because of all the COVID money that was floating around. What happens in a year or two when this money runs out? How are we going to pay for this? It’s very troubling.” 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “Did any of these guys ever take an economics lesson? They think they can fix everything by just handing people more money. Money that doesn’t actually even exist. Their own policies are causing all the inflation. It’s just going to keep snowballing and getting worse. Do none of them realize this?” 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM suggested, “For this 20 weeks off, why don’t you just make everybody either a part timer or 1099 them and make them consultants or something like that?” 

“That’s what’s going to happen,” Frey predicted. “These business owners have taken economics classes and they know how it works. There’s no business that’s for profit that is not going to figure out a way to stay in business. We end up hurting the folks we’re trying to help. That’s what they’re going to do. They’re going to cut back. We end up hurting folks and guess what? These teenagers who need a little bit of money to get through high school until they get out of the house, they will not be hired because people are not going to hire an inexperienced for $15, $16, $17 an hour. They will keep more work on the people there or they will put in technology to take the place. It’s really troubling.” 

Jansen said, “It’s like their thinking stops with their good intentions. We have good intentions. Period. And they never think beyond that. False compassion. False empathy. It doesn’t help anybody.”