ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WMAR) - It's a heated debate that's been going on for years across the nation. And here the fight to raise Maryland's minimum wage to $15 by 2023 continues.
The bill's sponsors say the legislation gives a voice to low-income workers. Right now, 18 states and the District of Columbia are working towards that $15 amount.
Maryland workers said it can't come soon enough.
"The Fight For 15 is just to make us a livable wage for people to be able to afford food, a place to stay," Marsha Debolt told ABC2.
Those seem like things many take for granted. But the hundreds of workers, advocates, and lawmakers who filled the state capital grounds Monday, said what passes as living for a lot of Marylanders is barely enough.
"People struggle hard to make it. We’re not lazy like they think we are and they really think that a minimum wage is where you start and then you’ll go above that but that’s not true that’s not reality," Debolt said.
Bill sponsors say the voices of the people earning the least need to be heard.
House sponsor of the bill, Delegate Shelly Hettleman said, "We are joining a national effort, the fight for $15, to raise the wages of the lowest-earning workers in our community."
In July, Maryland’s minimum wage will go up to $10.10. The hope is to reach $15 by 2023.
"When you cant afford rent, when you can’t afford food, you have to get on the food stamp or snap program, public assistance, you can’t pay your light bill, these are real issues," Delegate Diana Fennell told ABC2.
Opponents of the increase say small businesses may struggle to pay $15 dollars to all employees.
"What I say to the small business owners is look at the experience of small business owners across the country where they’ve done this, in 18 plus communities and they haven’t gone out of business," said Kettleman.
Senator Richard Madaleno is also one of the primary sponsors of the bill. Monday's rally kicked off a year-long campaign to garner support for the legislation.