By Ramona du Houx
City Councilor Joe Baldacci at a Bangor city council meeting being interviewed by the press. Photo by Ramona du Houx
The City Council’s Business and Economic Development Committee took new action on August 18th to progress the minimum wage issue.
Earlier this year, Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci’s proposed an ordinance that would increase the local minimum wage from $7.50 per hour to $8.25 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016, and eventually increase it to $9.75 per hour in 2018. After that, the Bangor minimum wage would fluctuate with the consumer price index to keep up with inflation.
At the meeting a compromise proposal authored by Councilor Josh Plourde was discussed that included a council resolve to support the Maine People’s Alliance referendum on the November 2016 ballot that would increase the minimum wage statewide to $12 an hour.
The compromise does not exempt tipped workers, workers under the age of 18 or businesses with five or fewer workers. Baldacci is in favor of these changes but he would prefer to enact a local wage hike sooner than waiting for the referendum of 2016 to pass. Too many local citizens need a minimum wage increase — now.
“We are moving in the right direction. The right direction is raising people's wages. Sometimes this process takes longer than any of us like. But I try to keep my eyes on the prize. And the prize here is raising wages for hard working people,” said Baldacci.
The MPA proposal would also increase the minimum wage for tipped workers to $5 per hour in 2017 and by $1 per hour each year until it reaches $12 per hour no later than 2024.
Currently, employers of tipped workers are only allowed to credit half of the statewide minimum wage, $3.75 per hour, to tips.
“The proposed ordinance's endorsement of raising the minimum wage for tipped workers over several years to the same level as for all other employees is encouraging. One fair wage would improve the lives of tens of thousands of the lowest-paid employees in the state, 80 percent of whom are women,” said MPA Communications Director Mike Tipping.
“These steps to support a statewide minimum wage increase should not, however, prevent city councilors from acting to increase wages for Bangor residents more quickly than a statewide referendum would allow. The existing proposal to increase the minimum wage in Bangor starting in January 2016 should be strengthened and passed. The city council owes it to the thousands of Bangor residents working hard for long hours and struggling to scrape by on poverty wages.”