By Yvonne Wenger
May 18, 2020
The Baltimore City Council wants businesses to pay essential employees a premium for working during the pandemic, a measure that proposes to put an extra $10 to $25 per shift in people’s wallets.
Council President Brandon M. Scott said the bill, introduced Monday, would better compensate cashiers, delivery drivers, security guards and others who are performing essential jobs during the pandemic. The legislation applies to employees of companies with at least 100 workers.
The extra pay backs up the sentiment that such essential workers are “heroes,” Scott said. The pay bump would not apply to salaried employees or certain union workers.
“They have been heroes all along, but many people during this COVID crisis see the value now,” said Scott, who is running for mayor. “They are putting their lives at risk and their family’s lives at risk, and we have to recognize their sacrifice.”
Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who is running for re-election, has not taken a position on the legislation, spokesman Lester Davis said. The administration must review the bill and consider whether it is legally sound.
Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said the business community is trying to assess the financial burden the legislation would create for essential employers. He said his group only learned about the bill a day before it was introduced, making it difficult to have serious discussions about the fiscal impact on companies doing business in Baltimore.
“There are business that are performing essential services to benefit a large portion of the population, and to throw an additional financial burden on them when we don’t know the magnitude of the cost is somewhat problematic,” Fry said. “I have talked to a number of companies that are trying to analyze the financial impact. A lot are working on a very thin margin anyway.”
As the business community continues to evaluate the proposal, Scott said he remains sensitive to the financial pressure facing companies. The bill’s introduction, he said, is a starting point for discussions.
If the bill passes, the pay increase would be offered until the health emergency is over. It would require companies to pay certain workers an extra $10 for a shift of four hours or less, $20 for a 4- to 8-hour shift and $25 for shifts longer than 8 hours.
Businesses would be required to post notice of workers’ rights to premium pay and keep records to prove the extra compensation was paid. Fines and penalties would apply to businesses that don’t provide the pay bump.
Essential jobs are those defined as such under Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order. Generally, essential workers include those necessary to the supply chain, health care systems and public works operations. They are construction workers, convenience store clerks and food delivery drivers.
The bill applies to city workers, but not federal or state employees.
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Source: Baltimore Sun