By Ramona du Houx
On June 4, 1912, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to enact a minimum wage law, which established regional boards to set wages that would “supply the necessary cost of living and to maintain the workers in health.”
The report that led to the law showed that it was not uncommon for women in factories to earn less than $5 per week.
Today, June 4, 2015, volunteers in the Maine People’s Alliance and Maine AFL-CIO’s campaign to raise Maine’s minimum wage will officially launch their signature-gathering effort in Portland. The goal is to secure enough signatures to get the increase to $12 an hour by 2020 on the 2016 ballot.
The Economic Policy Institute estimates that gradually increasing the wage to $12 per hour would give over 120,000 Maine workers—more than a fifth of the state’s workforce—a raise.
EPI calculates a $12 minimum wage would mean:
• 60 percent of the workers who would be effected are women.
• 85 percent are over the age of 20.
• 75 percent work in service, sales, and office and administrative support occupations.
• 75 percent work in: retail, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality.
• 40,000 children have at least one parent who would get a raise from this change.
These figures should be considered underestimates since they don’t count workers who would be likely to get a raise indirectly as employers reset their pay scales.
In April, the Maine People's Alliance and Maine AFL-CIO 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.