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Testimony Against the City $15 Min Wage

March 1, 2017. Good Evening.  My name is John Danko.  I am current volunteering as the co-chair of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development’s (MOED) Baltimore Workforce Development Board’s Employer Engagement Committee.  Last year, I just finished serving a four-year term on the Maryland Correctional Education Council under Governors O’Malley and Hogan. I am here this evening, however, as the third-generation President of Danko Arlington, Inc.

My business is ninety-seven years old and employs seventy-five people. We make custom aluminum components on East Wabash Avenue.  We compete nationally with other companies located in other states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas as the low bidder for military spare parts for our Warfighters.  Plain and simple: we cannot afford to start unskilled workers at journeymen’s wages and continue to stay in-business in Baltimore City.

We currently start at $11/hr. and teach niche skills to our employees.   Most of our workers make over $15/hour.   Over one third of our employees are ex-offenders.   We also hire immigrants and refugees.  We receive no-benefit from any program, other that it’s ‘the-right-thing-to-do.’  In many ways, our company is a “poster child” for Baltimore City.  Mayor Pugh is seeking more companies like ours to step-up an offer second chances.  Recently, she has spoken to seek more investment in our Pimlico-Park Heights Community.

Training unskilled applicants, however, comes at great price because most of our low skilled people have a difficult time learning or holding on to a job.   By gradually raising the minimum wage to $15/hr., the city council is effectively incentivizing Baltimore employers not to take the risks to hire second chance citizens.

The Labor Committee has recognized the need for training by amending the bill’s discount for 18-20-year-olds.  However, there are tens of thousands of 28-30, 38-40, 48-50, and even 58-60-year-olds without skills.   There is nothing in this bill, other than interns, that addresses skills, training, advancement, or even apprenticeships.  So, employers will get nothing in return for the phased in higher wages, higher payroll taxes, higher workman’s compensation, and soon-to-be higher city taxes and water bills. As a result, businesses will simply re-hire more skilled and efficient people, downsize, close, or go elsewhere.

This bill is doomed to backfire – hurting those whom this was intended to help.  This is not even taking in to consideration that there will be triple the number of county residents applying for city jobs, thereby reducing the chances of hiring our re-entry workforce even further.  Even small companies, like ours, are already making contingency plans to automate and to replace low skilled people.  This truly sad for all our city employer engagement agencies, including MOED.

Why would the Council want to force employers not to hire?   Isn’t better to start with no skills at Maryland State minimum wages, than have no wages at all in Baltimore?  This bill assumes that there will be the same number of jobs available tomorrow.  This will not be the case if this bill passes.  Baltimore will not attract companies to invest in our city — resulting in stagnation and decline in our fragile neighborhoods.

Instead of opposing our job creators, business and government need to work together to teach our community new skills for life-time careers like promoting MOED’s Youth Works and more on-the-job training.  We need more businesses in our city, especially more minority businesses.  Why isolate Baltimore?  Why separate Baltimore so we cannot compete in a free economy like other regions?  This bill is misguided, and will hurt our residents, especially our re-entry community.  It’s a disaster and certain to fail, setting Baltimore back for generations.   Our City simply cannot afford it.   I urge you to vote “No”.  Thank you.

John D. Danko, President