Last Thursday, Mainers for Fair Wages submitted 75,000 plus verified signatures to Secretary of State Dunlap’s office to place a minimum wage increase on the November ballot. Supporters and signature gatherers assembled for a rally in the State House’s Hall of Flags.
Mainers for Fair Wages, a coalition including the Maine People’s Alliance, Maine Small Business Coalition, and Maine AFL-CIO, launched the petition process for a citizen initiative to raise Maine’s minimum wage in June. If passed, the initiative would increase the minimum wage to $9 per hour in 2017 and then by $1 a year until it reaches $12 by 2020. After that the wage would increase at the same rate as the cost of living. The initiative would also incrementally raise the sub-minimum tipped wage until it matches the minimum wage for all other workers by 2024.
- Adam Lee – Chairman, Lee Automalls, Auburn
- Benjamin Waxman – Co-owner, American Roots, Portland
- April Thibodeau – Volunteer and restaurant server, Westport Island
- Adelaide Manirakiza – Homecare worker, Westbrook
Prepared remarks of other speakers:
- Katie Logue, Auburn: “I work at a convenience store for just over the state minimum wage and I struggle to support myself and my family. When you’re this close to the edge, one emergency can ruin everything. It wasn’t too long ago that we were forced to live in a homeless shelter, while I was working full time but unable to keep up with the bills. It just isn’t right that there are people like me all over the state who are working hard every day but can’t get ahead. That’s why I helped to collect hundreds of signatures to get this measure on the ballot, boost our state economy and help tens of thousands of struggling Mainers.”
- Melissa Stevens, Lewiston: “I’m a single mother and I know what it’s like to work low wage jobs and not be able to make ends meet. On $8 an hour it was impossible to afford basic necessities for my family like childcare, transportation and keeping a roof over our heads. While I was working full time I still needed to rely on food assistance to be able to feed my family. I joined the minimum wage campaign last fall to collect signatures to support this initiative and I am thrilled to be here today with so many community leaders from all walks of life as we submit far more than enough signatures to place this referendum on the ballot.”
- Esther Pew, Portland: “I am working as a tipped worker at a restaurant and a boost in my base wage would mean that I would not have to rely solely on tips in order to support myself. It’s hard to stick to a budget and be financially responsible when your wages can fluctuate drastically from one shift to the next. Getting a steady paycheck from my employer, and not just tips from my customers, would be a boost for me and thousands of tipped workers, mostly women, working in restaurants all over Maine.”
- Tyler Williams, Bangor: “From the time I was 15, I’ve had to work a number of minimum wage jobs to help my family make ends meet. As the breadwinner, I was responsible, as a child, for making sure the heat stayed on through the winter, and unfortunately, I often failed in this endeavor. Recently, I was forced to drop out of school because minimum wage, does not pay enough to get necessities, much less to pay tuition, too. This is the true tragedy of having such a low minimum wage. No one should have to choose between an education and a pittance. Hard work is supposed to give you the opportunity to pull yourself out of poverty, but $7.50 doesn’t help you out of poverty. It keeps you in it.”
- Brandy Staples, Phippsburg: “When I was 26, I was diagnosed with aggressive stage four breast cancer. I had to leave the workforce for in order to deal with it and regain my health and strength. Since then, I have had a hard time finding dependable and livable wage work that allows me to make ends meet while still paying off huge amounts of medical debt. I currently work two part time jobs at very close to minimum wage, plus I help my parents with their business. With these three jobs, I still don’t make enough to get by. I heard similar stories all the time while I was collecting signatures to get this initiative on the ballot. That’s what motivated me to collected more than 600 signatures last summer and fall. Raising Maine’s minimum wage to $12/hour will help me get on my feet and will help so many others like me.”
The Secretary of State’s office has 30 days to review the petitions and refer the matter to the Legislature to either enact without change or allow placement on the November ballot.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Videos taken of a work session 3/31/15 of the 127th Maine Legislature’s standing Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development (LCRED) Committee on the following bills:
LD 36, An Act To Increase the Minimum Wage
Rep. Evangelos of Friendship
LD 52, An Act To Adjust Maine’s Minimum Wage
Rep. Martin of Sinclair
LD 72, An Act To Increase the Minimum Wage
Rep. Hamann of South Portland
LD 77, An Act To Raise the Minimum Wage
Sen. Miramant of Knox
LD 92, An Act To Increase the Minimum Wage to $8.00 per Hour
Rep. Bates of Westbrook
LD 403, An Act To Eliminate the Exception from Minimum Wage Laws for Workers Who Receive Tips
Rep. Cooper of Yarmouth
LD 487, An Act To Provide for an Increase in the Minimum Wage
Rep. Chipman of Portland
LD 530, An Act To Improve Public Sector Collective Bargaining Laws
Sen. Patrick of Oxford
LD 612, An Act To Require a Large Employer To Provide a Paper Paystub upon Request from an Employee
Rep. Harlow of Portland
LD 673, An Act To Help Prevent Age Discrimination
Rep. Lajoie of Lewiston
LD 739, Resolve, To Establish a Working Group To Evaluate the Benefits and Detriments of Increasing the Minimum Wage
Sen. Saviello of Franklin
LD 843, An Act To Raise the Minimum Wage and Index It to the National Average Wage
Rep. Melaragno of Auburn
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On Monday the 127th Maine Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development (LCRED) Committee heard testimony on eight bills relating to modifying the state’s minimum wage, which currently sits at $7.50 an hour and has not been increased since 2006. A bill to raise it was passed by the 126th Legislature last year, but was vetoed by Governor LePage and later sustained.
Link here to the bills:
- LD 36 (sponsored by Rep. Jeff Evangelos)
- LD 52 (sponsored by Rep. Danny Martin)
- LD 72 (sponsored by Rep. Scott Hamann)
- LD 77 (sponsored by Sen. Dave Miramant)
- LD 92 (sponsored by Rep. Dillon Bates)
- LD 487 (sponsored by Rep. Ben Chipman)
- LD 843 (sponsored by Rep. Gina Melaragno)
- LD 739 (sponsored by Sen. Tom Saviello)
Some of the statements released yesterday are below.
- Rep. Gina Melaragno (D-Auburn): “Maine workers find themselves working at least full time but still living in or near poverty, while having to care for their families at the same time. They have seen the prices of everything go up except the price of their undervalued labor, and they are tired of being thrown a small token raise every five or six years. They want meaningful, lasting change.”
Sen. Dave Miramant (D-Camden): “When I looked back at the value of the minimum wage, it hit an all-time high just as I was starting to work in 1969. The minimum wage was $1.60 per hour but that gave me the equivalent of a $10.19 wage in 2015 dollars. This is why we were able to start a large middle class through this period. We have been falling behind ever since! Because we have failed to tie the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), or some reliable method of indexing it to inflation, workers are being left behind in this state and in many others. The jobs that were supposed to be entry level and only short term have become an ongoing reality for far too many workers in our hobbled economy.”
Matt Schlobohm, Maine AFL-CIO Executive Director: “People who work full time should not live in poverty. People who work hard should be able to earn enough to make ends meet. It’s long overdue that Maine workers get a raise. A meaningful increase in the minimum wage would improve the wages of hundreds of thousands of Mainers. It would spur economic activity and pump millions of dollars into the Maine economy. Its good economics, its the right thing to do, and it’s long overdue. We need to raise wages across the board. All throughout Maine, working families are living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to make ends meet. Workers wages are simply not keeping pace with rising costs. Raising the minimum wage is a first step in a larger effort to build an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.”
Ben Chin, political director for Maine Peoples Alliance: “I’m here today to testify primarily in support of LD 843, “An Act to Raise the Minimum Wage and Index it to the National Average Wage,” sponsored by Rep Melaragno. We (MPA) believe that LDs 36, 52, 72, 77, 92, 487, and 739 offer encouraging steps in the right direction. But LD 843 offers the most significant movement towards a living wage for all Maine workers. The reality is that need an even larger increase than what LD 843 offers. A living wage in Maine for a single adult, on average, is $15.82. Fifty-five percent of job openings in Maine pay less than that. For every job that pays $15.82, there are twelve job-seekers on average. The most basic premise of the American economic social contract is that you can work forty hours a week and make ends meet. Our minimum wage of $7.50 an hour for non-tipped workers doesn’t get an individual even halfway there—let alone their families.”
Ginette Rivard, President of MSEA-SEIU Local 1989: “Five and a half years ago years ago, on Oct. 1, 2009, Maine added 25 cents to its minimum wage, bringing it to $7.50 an hour. It’s been stuck there ever since – even as the cost of living has gone up for all of us.
Take a look at what is happening in the rest of New England and you’ll see the State of Maine – and thousands of Maine’s working families – have fallen far behind when it comes to the minimum wage.
Vermont’s minimum wage is $9.15 – and rising to $10.50 in 2018.
In Massachusetts, the wage is $9 – and rising to $11 in 2017.
In Rhode Island, the wage is $9.
And in Connecticut, the wage is $9.15 – and rising to $10.10 in 2017.
Yet Maine has been stuck at $7.50. Maine would be dead last in New England but for New Hampshire joining in a dangerous race to the bottom by falling back to the federal minimum wage of $7.25. A Maine worker putting in 40 hours at minimum wage grosses $300 a week. That’s $15,600 a year, before taxes. That’s not nearly enough for one person to live on, let alone a family.”
Here in order are videos (ten in all) of the entire day in LCRED.
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My fellow Mainers, I have proposed common-sense reforms to reduce taxes, pay our bills, create jobs and lower home-heating costs for Mainers. But legislators on the other side of the aisle don’t want to make the tough choices. They just want to raise taxes so they can keep expanding welfare and growing government.
Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.
My agenda makes difficult choices and sets priorities that will put Maine on the right track toward prosperity. My goal is to improve our business climate, provide better educational opportunities for Maine students and right-size government.
The other side has only one priority, and it is simple: raise taxes. Democrats believe that raising taxes or taking more money from the private sector is the path to prosperity. That’s why they want to hike the minimum wage to 9 dollars by 2016 and then automatically adjust it for inflation each year after that.
But their plan has hit a snag: they have to find the money to pay for this job-killing bill. If cost-of-living adjustments increase the minimum wage beyond the hourly rate for state employees, then the state must find the money to pay for these increases. And folks, when the state needs money, where does it come from? It comes from you.
Even worse, if the minimum wage increases automatically each year, employee unions can use those increases to bargain for higher wages. Where will this money come from? Yes, it will come from you.
Supporters say raising the minimum wage would provide more money to low-income people, who would then spend this money and stimulate the economy. They claim that hiking the minimum wage would create 166 million dollars in new income and new spending each year. But folks, that money would not fall from trees; it has to come from somewhere.
To pay for higher wages in the public-sector, that money would come from higher taxes. In other words, it would come from you. In the private sector, that money would come from the businesses that must pay the higher wages.
To absorb the cost of those higher wages, businesses will hire fewer workers and increase prices on their products and services. Who will pay that cost? You know the answer.
Raising the minimum wage will take away jobs from students trying to save money for college or senior citizens on fixed incomes. It won’t make us more business friendly, and it won’t increase anyone’s standard of living. It will actually hurt low-income Mainers who will find fewer jobs available to them and higher prices on the shelves.
Once again, Democrats have misplaced their priorities. They want to take more money from you and from businesses so they can say they are increasing the livable wage for Mainers. This is a politically motivated illusion that has never worked and will not work this time.
Mainers working full-time, minimum-wage jobs now earn $300 a week ($15,600 a year). If the minimum wage increases to 9 dollars an hour, they would make $360 a week ($18,720 a year). Folks, that is not a livable wage. And that is exactly why raising the minimum wage is the wrong thing to do.
We don’t need to increase our minimum wage, which is already higher than the federal minimum wage. We need to increase our median wage. The U.S. average wage is $916 a week. In Massachusetts, the average wage is over $1,100 dollars a week. In New Hampshire, it is over $900 a week. But Maine’s average weekly wage is only $734.
I come from the streets, and I know how hard it is to live on low wages. That’s why I passed the largest tax cut in our state’s history to eliminate the income tax for 70,000 of Maine’s lowest wage earners. This is the kind of policy change that makes a real difference by putting money back into the hands of Mainers.
Mainers are proud people, and it’s not a hand out they want. Let’s give them a hand up that will lead them to their own earned success.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Rep. Scott Hamann (D-S. Portland) on LD 611 ($1 Min Wage Inc): Time For Maine Workers to Earn a Fair Wage (Video; Text)
Here is Rep. Scott Hamann’s speech as prepared:
- Thank you for coming.
LD611 does two things. First, it raises the minimum wage by a dollar, and then it indexes it to inflation.
Maine’s minimum wage hasn’t been adjusted since 2009, so as the economy begins its recovery, now is the time. We can all agree- I’m sure- that we should reward work. We should ensure that an honest day’s work is rewarded with an honest paycheck that puts food on the table, clothes on their backs, and oil in the tank.
But just as important as raising the minimum wage now, we should take steps to ensure that as the cost of living goes up year by year, so should the minimum wage. If the cost of things like milk and gas and bread and heating oil go up by only a little bit, LD611 requires that the minimum wage goes up by the same percent as well. This will prevent minimum wage workers from getting a pay cut year by year, decreasing the buying power of their already less than adequate paycheck.
First, if we put money in the hands of the people most likely to spend it and most likely to spend it locally, this drives up consumption in Maine’s economy. If we increase consumption and demand for goods and services, businesses will hire more to keep up with the demand. Just ask Vermont. They indexed their minimum wage to inflation in 2007, so today a minimum wage worker earns $8.60 an hour.
Vermont’s unemployment is under 5%.
Second, we should reward work. Someone who’s willing to work full-time should be paid enough to pay their bills. These are workers- workers who know that getting up each day to go to work means they are guaranteed a paycheck that will still keep them below the poverty threshold- but these workers get up and go to work anyways.
The very least we can do as a state is reward their dedication to Maine’s economy and their commitment to self-reliance and personal responsibility. And that’s something that everyone from every party- Democrat, Republican, Independent, Undeclared, Green- should stand behind. We should reward the virtue of personal responsibility. This should be a non-partisan issue.
LD611 demonstrates that we respect their work and gets them slightly closer to a livable wage. To be clear, the bill’s proposed increase to $8.50 is an extremely modest and conservative step in that direction and indexing to inflation simply ensures that the buying power of the minimum wage rises with the tide of inflation.
Increasing the minimum wage will give a boost to consumption which benefits Maine businesses. But beyond the economic benefits, it’s simply the right thing to do to reward workers who know their paycheck will be less than enough… and they go to work anyway, to do their part to contribute to Maine’s economy.