By Ramona du Houx
A Ballot Question Committee quarterly fundraising report filed today by the Maine People's Alliance (MPA) shows strong grassroots backing for the campaign to raise Maine’s minimum wage. The average individual gave $31.62 and 97 percent of contributors live in Maine.
"Nobody should be working 40 hours a week and be homeless, like my husband and I both were," said Katie Logue, who works as a gas station cashier for $9 an hour and made a contribution to the campaign. "Raising the minimum wage would mean we could afford a few more of the basics that we sometimes overlook, like health insurance for me, or fixing the car now that it makes this awful noise, or keeping some food in the house. I need to fight for this minimum wage increase because no family should have to work as hard as we do (and harder) to make barely enough to survive."
$170,055.70 has been contributed during the first phase of the signature collection process to place an increase in the minimum wage on the ballot in 2016. The fundraising totals include in-kind and organizational support as well as contributions from 2,282 individual donors.
"The response from every corner of the state has been astounding. In just two months, we've seen more than 2,000 Mainers give online or in person to canvassers," said MPA's Director Amy Halsted. "These supporters, many of them making low wages themselves and contributing what they can, are helping to build a grassroots movement that will raise the wage, boost the economy and help lift more than 130,000 Mainers and their families out of poverty."
The report covers the period of April 1st through June 30th, 2015. The campaign was launched on April 16th. MPA reports expenditures during the period of $141,301.87, mostly on signature gathering-related activity.
If the campaign is successful in collecting the required signatures, the minimum wage question will appear on the ballot for the November, 2016 election. The proposed policy would increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour in 2017 and then by a dollar a year until it reaches $12 an hour in 2020. Increases would be indexed to the cost of living in subsequent years. The sub-minimum wage for workers receiving tips would be increased to $5 an hour in 2017 and then gradually raised until it reaches the same level as the regular minimum wage after 2024.
The next phase of the campaign includes transitioning to a broader leadership coalition, comprised of the Maine AFL-CIO and other groups that support fair wages in Maine.
Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci has already been helping by hosting spaghetti dinners around the state to raise the awareness of the referendum. “There is a dire need to change the minimum wage from one of poverty into a fair wage. It’s in all our best interests. When full-time workers have security with decent wages they can spend more in their local communities,” said Baldacci, who is also leading an effort to raise the minimum wage in Bangor.