By Ramona du Houx
A town hall to consider raising Bangor’s minimum wage will take place tomorrow, Wednesday, April 9th, to discuss a minimum wage increase for Mainers.
“We need to focus on the issue and raise public awareness that the state minimum wage hasn’t been increased in the past six years. This is a way to get started and jump-start the conversation,” said Baldacci.
The forum will feature guest speakers, and will allow local residents and business people to share their viewpoints about the issue.
“Having a real and substantial conversation about raising the minimum wage is a part of a necessary discussion we need to have about raising people’s incomes in general,” said Baldacci.
Special guests will include Donato Tramuto of Ogunquit, Maine businessman and global healthcare activist; former Maine Gov. John Baldacci; Jim Wellehan, Auburn, owner of Lamey Wellehan Shoes, a statewide business; and Todd Gabe, Orono, University of Maine professor of economics. Also attending will other state and local legislators. The forum is free and open to the public.
Details of the event are:
• Maine’s Minimum Wage Town Hall, 5:30-7 p.m.
• Thursday, April 9, Abraham Lincoln School, 45 Forest Ave. Bangor, Maine
• Guest speakers with question-and-answer period following
• Refreshments will be served
• Free and open to the public
Earlier this year, Councilor Baldacci proposed a draft ordinance to raise the Bangor minimum wage to $8.25 an hour, effective Jan. 1, 2016, with additional increases to $9 an hour by 2017 and $9.75 an hour by 2018. Under his proposal, the citywide minimum wage thereafter would increase each year in conjunction with the previous year’s consumer price index.
Baldacci acknowledged that other city councilors and some Bangor businesspeople have raised concerns about the draft ordinance. He said he organized the public forum “so we can have a discussion that is more fact-based than emotion-based.”
The city councilor pointed out that the guest speakers will provide informative perspectives on the issue.
• Tramuto is CEO and chairman of Physicians Interactive, a Boston-based interactive healthcare company, and a 2015 Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope laureate, He is expected to discuss how health care and low wages form basic middle-class economic issues that need to be addressed.
• Former Governor John Baldacci will speak about the importance of raising the minimum wage for economic growth. He was the last Governor to raise Maine’s minimum wage in 2009.
• Wellehan, who owns and operates the highly successful shoe store business in six Maine locations, will speak as a business owner on the advantages of increasing the minimum wage. Founded in 1914, Lamey Wellehan was named Retailer of the Year in 2011 by B.S.T.A., the New England trade group of footwear suppliers.
• Garrett Martin, the executive director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy, will speak first to give everyone an over view of the minimum wage’s history and why increasing it should spur an increase in all wages.
• Gabe, professor at the UM School of Economics, will speak about his research concerning the minimum wage and its impact. His academic research areas are regional and community economic development and public finance.
• Jane Searles, from Women Work and Community, will speak about how critically important raising the minimum wage is for women, particularly single working mothers.
The event will be recorded by Don Cookson, WZON radio host, and be available after the event. Refreshments are being provided by Frank’s Bakery and Gosselin’s Bakery, both of Bangor.
Baldacci’s proposal comes as city councils in Portland, South Portland and Augusta also are discussing raising the local minimum wage. As of 2015, workers in 20 states and the District of Columbia saw increases in local minimum wage requirements. At least 10 city and county governments across the U.S. have raised their minimum-wage requirements during the past two years including Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont in the New England region.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill in 2013 that would have increased the state’s minimum wage this year to $9 an hour. The current state minimum wage is $7.50 an hour.
“This issue needs to be taken seriously,” said Baldacci. “It needs to happen at the local and state level. We need to hear from the people in our community about this.”