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USM to raise minimum wage to $15 per hour

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents voted Friday to approve a measure that will establish a $15 minimum wage for all system employees. 

The board’s Finance Committee voted last week to recommend the wage adjustment, which will affect university staff members in a variety of roles across the university system’s 12 institutions and three regional campuses.  

All nonexempt, hourly USM roles are sorted into a “pay grade” that denotes the minimum amount that role can be paid, the maximum it can be paid, and a midpoint between the two. Currently, the four lowest pay grades include minimum wages below $15 per hour, with the lowest-paid university system employees making as little as $12.79 an hour (Maryland’s minimum wage for large employers is currently $11.75 and will rise to $12.50 on Jan. 1, 2022). 

Under the new structure, all four pay ranges will have a minimum hourly wage of exactly $15 per hour. In the new proposed pay scale, the maximum hourly wage for those pay grades would remain the same as before, rather than increase proportionally. However, the Board of Regents Friday meeting agenda noted that “it is recommended that USM staff work with the Systemwide Compensation and Classification Committee to examine whether future salary structure adjustments should be considered to address salary compression issues that may result from implementation of the new structure.” 

The USM follows a number of universities and higher education systems nationwide that have implemented a $15 minimum wage, including Johns Hopkins, which raised the minimum wage for its university employees to $15 per hour last July. Many of Maryland’s other major employers have also raised their minimum wages to $15 per hour recently, including LifeBridge Health, Under Armour and the University of Maryland Medical System. 

A wage of $15 per hour is set to become the minimum for all businesses in Maryland with more than 15 employees starting Jan. 1, 2025. Businesses with 14 or fewer employees are not required to raise their wages to $15 per hour until July 1, 2026. 

AFSCME Council 3, the union that represents USM staff members and other state government employees, has been pushing for the system to raise its minimum wage since last summer. After the measure passed through the USM Board of Regents Finance Committee last week, the union celebrated the move, writing in a statement that it was “proud to declare victory” in the fight for a systemwide $15 minimum wage. 

“Together, our union is fighting to improve Maryland’s public universities and ensure all staff has a voice at the table,” the statement continued. “The pandemic has made it clear that we cannot return to the status quo, and the voices of workers across the country are rising up for dignity and respect.” 

According to a database of nonexempt positions within the USM, the system’s four lowest pay grades include a variety of roles, such as child care workers, groundskeepers, phlebotomists, anesthesia technicians and more. It is unclear exactly how many workers would be directly impacted by the prospective wage increase. The estimated fiscal impact of the increase would be $1,828,312, according to Friday’s meeting agenda. 

If the Board of Regents votes to approve the wage adjustment, affected USM employees can expect to see the change reflected on their paycheck for the first full pay period beginning after Jan. 1, 2022.