Gov. John Baldacci and City Councilor Joe Baldacci Brother’s Host minimum wage Spaghetti Dinner in Augusta

Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

Former Governor John Baldacci and Former Bangor Mayor and City Councilor Joe Baldacci hosted a spaghetti supper to highlight why the minimum wage should be increased. The dinner was held at Cony High School in Augusta on May 11th.

The Baldacci brothers cooked the spaghetti sauce from their family’s secret recipe that became famous at Momma Baldacci’s, the former family restaurant of Bangor. The two-term governor, along with his brother and Speaker of the House Mark Eves served the meal.

“Ed Boucher, Joe and I like doing dinners to help people out. It was a good cause, which focused on people in Augusta, and it raised attention and awareness about the need to increase the minimum wage so people have a livable wage for all their work,” said Gov. Baldacci. “If you want more people to get off welfare—you have to make the minimum wage a livable wage so they can pay their rent, heat, keep the lights and pay for food for their family.”

 A handmade apron, autographed by the former Governor and other Maine politicians, which read RAISE THE WAGE NOW!! was auctioned off for close to $200. In all over $1,000 was made and will go to the Augusta Food Bank to benefit needy children in the area and their families.

 “I’m really happy the Augusta community and people from all over came. We had close to 200 people.  They enjoyed great spaghetti with homemade sauce, salad and deserts. We discussed the importance of the economy and raising peoples’ wages. The response has been excellent,” said Bangor City Councilor Baldacci.

Augusta City Councilors Dale McCormick, Linda Conti, and Anna Douglass Blodgett graciously co-hosted the event and helped serve and prepare the meal.

According to the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute (EPI) the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is worth $2 less today than it was in 1968 when adjusted for inflation.

Maine’s minimum wage is currently $7.50 an hour, increased during Baldacci administration in 2009. All efforts to raise the minimum wage at the state level since then have been defeated by Gov. LePage.

“The Legislature tried and tried to raise the minimum wage but the Republicans and corporate lobbyists have said no. So the people went to work and now it’s on the ballot. It’s time to do this because it’s all about our economy,” said Eves.

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 Gov. Baldacci.

An Alliance for a Just Society estimates that $15.82 an hour would be a livable wage. 

Mainers for Fair Wages, a coalition including the Maine People's Alliance, Maine Small Business Coalition, and Maine AFL-CIO, launched a successful petition process for a citizen initiative to raise Maine's minimum wage in June of 2015. The initiative will be on the ballot this November. 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.

“Don’t believe them when they tell you raising the wage costs jobs … It actually boosts the economy. The last time the federal government raised the minimum wage, over $5.5 billion more was spent,” said Economist Garrett Martin of the Maine Center of Economic Policy. “And jobs were created.”

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.

please go to: Raise ME Wage.