Gov. Martin O’Malley, U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and County Executive Isiah Leggett rolled burritos and mashed guacamole on Thursday in Bethesda to before talking about the need to raise the country’s minimum wage.
Perez, O’Malley and Leggett chose Boloco (4930 Elm St.) because the Boston-based chain of fast casual burrito restaurants pays its workers a median wage of $11.50 an hour, compared to the $8.83 an hour average median wage of fast food employees nationally.
Last November, the Montgomery County Council approved a bill to raise the minimum wage for employees in the county to $11.50 per hour by 2017, way more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Neighboring Prince George’s County and Washington D.C. approved the same minimum wage increase as part of a regional effort.
Earlier this year, O’Malley signed a bill to raise the minimum wage elsewhere in the state of Maryland to $10.10 by 2018.
“We were talking to your employees here and I was amazed at how long they’ve been here. The reason they’ve been here a long time is really simple, because you treat them well,” said Perez, the Takoma Park resident, former member of Montgomery County Council and one-time O’Malley appointee. “When you treat people well, they become loyal. That’s not rocket science. That’s common sense business 101.”
Perez was addressing Boloco CEO Patrick Renna in front of a large group of cameras in Boloco Bethesda’s dining area.
The trio took a few minutes to make some food. Employees taught Leggett how to roll a burrito. Leggett and Perez then made some gaucamole as O’Malley ate some lunch.
The three said Boloco, Montgomery County and the state of Maryland — as well as counties and states across the country — show that raising the minimum wage won’t lead to the doomsday scenarios some opponents claim. Montgomery County’s minimum wage will increase to $8.40 an hour in October, $9.55 in 2015, $10.75 in 2016 and $11.50 in 2017.
O’Malley said his preference was to raise the state’s minimum wage higher than $10.10 and do it earlier than 2018, but the bill that passed was a result of “legislative compromise.”
Perez urged residents to “vote with their feet” and patronize businesses that pay employees decent wages.