MPA Associate Director Amy Halsted leads a presentation on the details of the policy behind the proposed minimum wage increase at the training for the petition signatures in Augusta, May 16th. Courtesy photo.
By Ramona du Houx
On Saturday, more than 150 Mainers from every corner of the state convened in Augusta to learn about the citizens' initiative to incrementally increase Maine's minimum wage to $12 by 2020. Members of the Maine People's Alliance and Maine AFL-CIO spent the day learning about the details of the policy as well as strategizing on how to collect the thousands of signatures necessary to place an increase on the 2016 ballot.
Saru Jayaraman, co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center, delivered the keynote speech about the importance of ensuring that tipped-wage workers are paid the same fair wage as all workers.
Last month, "Mainers for Fair Wages" submitted the paperwork to launch a citizens' initiative to raise Maine's minimum wage to $9 in 2017 and then by $1 a year until it reaches $12 by 2020. After that it would increase at the same rate as the cost of living. The initiative would also incrementally raise the tipped minimum wage until it matches the minimum wage for all other workers by 2024.
"I work full time and still struggle to make ends meet. Families like mine work hard and deserve to be paid a fair wage. That means more than our current minimum wage of just $300 per week. No family can live on that," saidKatie McDaniel, a mother and convenience store worker from Auburn, who came for the training. "I'm really excited to be a part of this campaign to make sure that all families have a chance to succeed."
Joe Kubetz, who owns J K Landscaping Design in Portland attended the conference, said he supports raising the minimum wage because it's good for his business and the communities where he works, "When workers are paid more, they spend more money in their local economies. That helps the whole community and all businesses do so much better."
May 18th marked the end of a month-long fundraising campaign that raised $30,000 in grassroots contributions from over 800 small donors to help the petition program move forward.
"It's so inspiring to see Mainers from every corner of the state come together to fight for an economy that works for everyone - not just a few at the top," said Amy Halsted, MPA Associate Director and campaign manager for Mainers for Fair Wages. "This is truly a people-powered campaign. Too many Maine families have been struggling for too long; all the people contributing their time and money to the campaign shows they are ready to do something about it."