Wiley Rhymer with family

A Living Wage at Hopkins

What the New Contract Means for Wiley Rhymer

At a time when median income in America is falling, Wiley’s pay will rise by 3.6 percent a year over the life of the new contract. That’s not as dramatic a rise as some Hopkins workers, but it will increase his pay to $13 an hour, well above the current poverty level of $11.47 an hour.


Not too long ago, Wiley Rhymer was making good money as a hazardous materials technician. But the 90-hour weeks and out-of-state work meant he saw very little of his family.

So Wiley was thrilled when a neighbor told him in 2012 that Johns Hopkins Hospital was hiring staff for its two new medical towers.

He thought he’d found the ideal way to spend more time with his family while working a good job right here in Baltimore.

The reality has proved very different.

“The Hopkins recruiters really sold me on the place,” Wiley says. “They told me you can go to school for free, your kids can go to the university for half price, and there’ll be better jobs to move into once you’re here.”

But once Wiley started as a floor tech at Hopkins, the manager in the unit that handles hazardous materials told him they weren’t hiring. And Wiley’s starting pay of $10.71 an hour as a floor tech only bumped up to $11.19 after his first year.

With his fiancée having lost her job, Wiley’s paycheck was their only income. And that left them and their two sons living below the poverty line, which is $11.47 an hour for a family of four.

In fact, 25 percent of the union workers at Hopkins make less than $11.47 an hour. And it’s a serious struggle to support a family on that wage.

Before Wiley started working at Hopkins, his family had two cars. Now they have none. The first broke down and they couldn’t afford to fix it. The second was repossessed. Wiley and his family also rely now on food stamps and Medicaid to get by.

“If you had told me Hopkins would be a downgrade, I wouldn’t have believed it,” he says. “I know there’s a sense in my neighborhood that Hopkins is the place to be.

“But now, hearing my story, I think people’s eyes are being opened to what Hopkins is really like.”