by Julie Scharper for The Baltimore Sun

May 3, 2010

Major retailers in Baltimore would be forced to pay employees the city's designated 'living wage' -- currently slightly more than $10 per hour -- under a measure introduced by Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke at Monday's council meeting.

Retailers that are part of a chain that grosses more than $10 million annually would be required to pay employees the living wage rate under Clarke's proposal.

"This would apply to the businesses that can afford to do this, not the mom-and-pop stores on the corner," Clarke said.

Opponents of a plan to build a Walmart store in Remington, who have formed a group called Bmore Local, have asked that the city require businesses that move into the former site of Anderson Automotive on Howard Street to meet several criteria, including paying workers the state's designated living wage of $12.25 per hour.

Calls to several members of Bmore Local were not immediately returned Monday.

Clarke said that the bill is designed to boost wages for workers at all major retail chains in the city and not just the proposed Walmart.

In 1994, Baltimore became the first city in the country to pass a law requiring all city workers and contractors be paid a living wage, which is defined as the amount needed to provide for a person's basic needs.

Clarke, then Council President and a candidate for mayor, sponsored the 1994 living wage bill, which was supported by BUILD, a coalition of religious and community leaders.

The council's labor subcommittee will hold a hearing on the living wage bill before if can return to the full council for a vote.

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