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  • Gov. LePage admits he does not know what Maine’s minimum wage is

    A minimum wage spaghetti dinner hosted by John and Joe Baldacci is Augusta, Maine's Capitol city. photos by Ramona du Houx

    By Ramona du Houx

    Maine Democratic Party (MDP) Chairman Phil Bartlett today called out Gov. Paul LePage for the governor’s admission that he did know Maine’s minimum wage because he did not know anyone earning it.

    The Portland Press Herald reported yesterday that at two recent town halls, Gov. LePage stated that Maine’s minimum wage, which is $7.50 per hour, was $7.65.

    MDP Phill Bartlett at the Baldacci's Spaghetti Dinner to raise the minimum wage in Augusta held May 11th. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    "The minimum wage right now is $7.50 or $7.65. Whatever the rate is, I’m not even sure because quite frankly I don’t know of anybody that, personally, is working the minimum wage,” said Gov. LePage.

    The last Maine Governor to raise the minimum wage was John E. Baldacci.

    “Gov. LePage has not only vetoed legislation (8 times) to raise Maine’s minimum wage, he’s ridiculed restaurant workers who receive it. Now Gov. LePage blatantly admits that he doesn’t even know what the minimum wage is because he doesn’t know anyone in a minimum wage job” said MDP Chairman Bartlett. 

    Maine’s current minimum wage forces far too many families onto welfare rolls, and the need for federally subsidized healthcare. Someone working 40 hours a week at the minimum wage of $7.50, would earn $300 each week—or approximately $15,600 every year—well below the federal poverty line for families of two or more.

    Up until the early 1980s, an annual minimum-wage income—after adjusting for inflation—was enough to keep a family of two above the poverty line. At its high point in 1968, the minimum wage was high enough for a family of three to be above the poverty line with the earnings of a full-time minimum-wage worker. The falling minimum wage has led to poverty and inequality.

    “Historically low wages are being paid because that is what the inadequate law—which doesn't increase at the same rate as the cost of living—says workers can be paid. This out-of-date law undervalues the hard work of too many people. Nobody working a 40 hour week should live in poverty,” said Former Governor John Baldacci. “We hope our dinner helped generate support for a statewide minimum wage increase.”

    A ballot measure that would raise Maine’s minimum wage will be decided this Novemeber by the people of Maine. If passed it would increase the minimum wage to $9 per hour in 2017 and then by $1 a year until it reaches $12 by 2020. After that the wage would increase at the same rate as the cost of living. The initiative would also incrementally raise the sub-minimum tipped wage until it matches the minimum wage for all other workers by 2024.

    "This governor is astonishingly out-of-touch with the 1.3 million people he was elected to serve. I challenge Gov. LePage to introduce himself to the next person who prepares his food, or rings up his purchase, or mops a floor he walks on. He may be surprised to learn just how quickly he can meet someone who is earning the minimum wage,” challenged MDP Chairman Bartlett.

    At the federal level President Barack Obama has been pushing for an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10. His focus on the issue has spurred states to take action, and he mandated federal workers must have the $10.10 minimum. But the majority of Republicans in Congress have consistently stopped any action to increase the minimum wage.

    In 2013, Poliquin opposed raising the minimum wage in Maine to $9 an hour, claiming that the only minimum wage workers were teenagers living at home who don’t need more money.

    "I'm proud to have voted multiple times to raise the minimum wage and stand up for our neighbors and friends who are struggling to take care of their families," said Emily Cain, who is running for Congress in the 2nd District. Cain served in the Maine State House and Senate.

    “Congressman Poliquin not only opposes raising the minimum wage but voted to strip minimum wage protections from construction workers receiving federal money. We deserve a member of Congress who will stand up for working Mainers, not for Wall Street.”

    Current law, The Davis-Bacon Act, requires that workers on federally funded construction projects be paid the prevailing wage in whichever jurisdiction a construction project is taking place. Essentially, it prohibits companies using federal money from scamming their workers by not paying the wages required by local law. Twice in 2015, Poliquin voted for amendments that would prohibit the enforcement of this requirement.

    RIGHT: Former State Rep. Emily Cain at work in Augusta. photo by Ramona du Houx

    Six months after the minimum wage in Seattle, Washington jumped to $11 an hour—on its way to $15—the restaurant industry has continued to boom, despite dire predictions.

    Raising the state minimum wage would directly affect more than 130,000 low-wage workers in Maine, most of them women and many of them are supporting families, according to calculations by the Economic Policy Institute.

    The EPI 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 affected 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.