After climate change, the wage and wealth inequality that has grown into a chasm over the last 30-or-so years in America is the single largest problem that we face as a society. It is the defining challenge of our time, as we adjust to the changes that are inherent to the rapid advances in technology that have caused productivity rates to skyrocket, requiring fewer workers and those left still working with their wages largely unchanged even though they’re producing far more than before.
It’s a problem in which Democrats are complicit, perhaps even more so than the steadfastly pro-business and free market Republicans, because their historical role in our society has been to ensure that the working and middle classes are on solid footing. They have failed in that task, and they have failed the American people by siding with those same business interests as Republicans time and again in the eternal pursuit of campaign contributions.
I support at least a $15 minimum wage for Marylanders out of two principles — a person who works full time should not find him or herself in poverty, and that businesses must no longer count on our social safety net to subsidize their profit margins by allowing them to pay poverty wages.
Philosophically speaking, I do not think that government is the best instrument by which economic justice can be achieved. The plural sector – our unions, our free associations and communities – are much better positioned to bring this change.
Unfortunately, those organizations have been decimated over the years as “right to work” laws have become common. We are fortunate that Maryland has not gone that route, but here, our unions are only strong in the public sector. We must work to expand the right to organize and bargain collectively to all workers willing to stand up for themselves, and I will fight for those efforts.
Until then, government is the only entity in a position to do something resembling collective bargaining on behalf of the people. And so we fight for $15 and a union.
I am also a big proponent of co-ops, employee-owned businesses and majority employee stock ownership (ESOP) businesses. This business model is, as Ronald Reagan put it, “a path that befits a free people,” giving workers a say in the management of their company and a greater stake in its future success. Employees with an ownership stake work harder, stay with a company longer, get better pay and benefits and are ultimately happier than employees at more traditional corporations.
There are a number of things we can do in Maryland to encourage and support employee-owned businesses, such as providing low-interest loans for initial capital, tax incentives for businesses that use this model as well as for retiring business owners who sell to their employees, and technical assistance in setting up an employee-owned or majority ESOP business.Back to the Issues