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Maryland Latino Voters Focused on Wages

PHOTO: Jaime Contreras, 32BJ SEIU vice president, says Maryland's Latino voters are watching wage issues this election. Photo courtesy of 32BJ SEIU.
PHOTO: Jaime Contreras, 32BJ SEIU vice president, says Maryland's Latino voters are watching wage issues this election. Photo courtesy of 32BJ SEIU.
October 23, 2014

BALTIMORE - According to Jaime Contreras, 32BJ SEIU vice president, big issues for Maryland's Latino voters this election season include school funding, affordable housing, the Dream Act and wages.

Contreras says a strong minimum wage is perhaps most important right now to Latinos, and he's pleased the state's minimum wage is set to rise in January.

The minimum wage has also become a point of controversy in the Maryland governor's race, with Contreras pointing to conflicting statements from Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan on whether he supports a higher minimum.

"The creation of part-time, low-wage jobs has now basically replaced the middle class," says Contreras. "People are working harder and longer hours for a lot less money than many years back."

The Maryland minimum wage will rise from its current $7.25 an hour to $8.00 an hour on January 1. It was then rise to $8.25 on July 1, 2015. Eventually, Maryland's minimum wage will reach $10.10 cents an hour by July 2018.

Contreras says while the minimum wage has been a "hot topic" in this year's election rhetoric, he contends recognition of how increasing the minimum wage can help the economy can't be overlooked.

"It's an important way to help people come out of poverty," he says. "It's also a smart investment in our economy as it increases tax revenue in the cities where people live."

Critics of raising the minimum wage have warned about job losses, but Contreras cites a Department of Labor report from earlier this year that indicates the 13 states that raised their minimum wages as of January 1 added jobs at a faster pace than those that did not.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD