05/10/2007 01:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Good News in the Battle for Better Wages

From coast to coast, politicians and activists are demanding better pay for the many workers in our nation who are struggling to get by.

On May 8, 2007, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley became the first governor in the United States to sign living-wage legislation. The law requires state contractors in Maryland to pay at least $8.50 an hour to workers in most of Maryland, while contractors in the more expensive Baltimore-Washington area must pay $11.30 an hour.

Maryland's new law is an important victory not just for underpaid workers in that state, but for workers across the country. It energizes the national movement to provide workers with enough money to lift their families out of poverty.

This new measure was hardly an easy win: Bob Ehrlich, Maryland's previous governor, who lost his re-election bid, vetoed living-wage legislation in his eagerness to please the business community. But O'Malley's action shows what can happen when we elect politicians who support working families -- and Ehrlich's defeat at the polls shows what can happen to politicians who don't.

Aside from the good news for Maryland workers, the custodians in the University of California system (AFSCME Local 3299) are persevering in their campaign to win higher wages. They were supported by 1,000 students at UC-Berkeley who protested on May 8, demanding higher pay for the custodians; some students even took over the business school.

Actor Danny Glover, who had been scheduled to be the commencement speaker, canceled his appearance in solidarity with the university's custodians. He joins a long list of people who are supporting their fight, including several prominent political leaders and Democratic presidential candidates.

After this week's activities in the fight for better wages, politicians and employers have been put on notice: Either pay workers what they deserve, or suffer the consequences.