Honest day’s work should be rewarded with honest day’s pay
AUGUSTA—Earlier today, the Senate passed legislation to increase the minimum wage in Maine with a vote of 19—16. The measure will increase the minimum wage of $7.50 per hour by 50 cents—about the cost of a postage stamp.
“We have a lot of slogans in Maine but one that we should consider is, ‘People before poverty.’ Everyone who works in Maine should be able to pay their bills and put dinner on the table,” said Senator John Patrick, D-Rumford. “Let’s not forget: minimum wage was created to reduce poverty. We should ensure an honest day’s work is rewarded with an honest day’s paycheck.”
In Maine, a full time minimum wage job pays $15,600 a year.
Patrick, who also chairs the Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development committee, added, “I cannot imagine going to the store after getting my check for a week’s worth of work and wondering if I can buy a loaf of bread for my kids and a gallon of milk so they don’t go hungry.”
The measure as approved by the Senate today would increase the minimum wage in 50 cent increments through July 1, 2017, and then automatically adjust for inflation.
According to economic reports, for every $1 increase in minimum wage, an additional $2,800 in spending per household occurs the following year. Recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute estimates that raising Maine’s minimum wage to $8.50 would add up to $33 million to the state’s economy.
“We should not be debating how little we can ‘get away with’ paying workers, said Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland. “Instead, we should be working on measures that respect our friends and neighbors enough to pay them what they need to pay their bills.”
Contrary to claims that raising the minimum wage will hurt businesses, leading to fewer jobs, theCenter for Economic Policy Research found that raising the minimum wage has little to no effect on job growth.
President Alfond added, “As a small business owner, I understand the cost of doing business,” “But I also understand that businesses like mine, have a choice about how much they will pay their employees. Today, there are 14,000 Mainers who choose to get up and work for $300 a week. They work hard, regardless of how much they’re getting paid. ”
Incomes for the bottom 90 percent of Americans only grew by $59 on average between 1966 and 2011 when those incomes are adjusted for inflation.
Five years ago, Vermont tied its minimum wage to inflation. The minimum wage in Vermont is now $8.60 per hour, the highest in the region, and Vermont’s unemployment rate is less than 5%, the lowest in New England.
“If the price of milk and gas and bread goes up, your paycheck should too,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. “Maine people don’t want handouts; they want jobs with dignity that pay a decent wage. No one who works hard and plays by the rules should live in poverty.”
Nearly 1 in 5 jobs in Maine don’t pay enough to lift a family of four out of poverty, must less meet their basic needs.
“As lawmakers, we have to ask, who we are fighting for?,” asked Senator Majority Leader of Seth Goodall (D-Richmond). “Today I’m standing up for the 14,000 Mainers who are in poverty and working hard to get out of it.”
During the debate, Senator Emily Cain, D-Orono, spoke about the importance of increasing minimum wage for women, 61% of whom are earning minimum wage.
“Raising the minimum wage is not a miracle cure but it is an important tool to raise the standard for women in our state,” said Senator Cain. “Raising the minimum wage is about working mothers. It’s about expanding the choices women can make about where to live and the opportunities they can offer their children.”
The minimum wage in Maine has not increased in four years.
The measure, LD 611, was passed by the House last week. It faces more votes in the Senate before it will be sent to the Governor’s desk.