Maine’s Labor Mural now on display at the Maine State Library in Augusta, Maine. Photo by Ramona du HOux

By Ramona du Houx

On March 18, 2020 Maine Governor Janet Mills signed Assistant House Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau’s bill to amend the laws around the subminimum wage. The new law eliminates exemptions from the minimum wage law that previously allowed for the payment of wages at less than the minimum wage to certain individuals with disabilities.

“A subminimum wage is an antiquated ‘solution’ that misunderstands what persons with disabilities have to offer to our workforce and economy,” said Fecteau, D-Biddeford. “People with disabilities deserve our respect. We have a moral obligation to one another, as friends, neighbors and family, to erase policies undermining this deserved respect.”

Maine ranks near the bottom for employment of individuals with disabilities. A recent report from the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) records a 33 percent employment rate. Our neighboring state, New Hampshire, eliminated the subminimum wage for persons with disabilities in 2015 and has consistently ranked towards the top regarding employment rates of persons with disabilities.

In 2015, former Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, proposed phasing out the subminimum wage for persons with disabilities. The bill proposed a phase-out because there were still a few employers in Maine with active certificates to pay a subminimum wage to persons with disabilities.

In 2017, the Bangor Daily News reported that there remained one employer in the state who retained a certificate to pay persons with disabilities less than the minimum wage. They paid an employee as little as $2.14 per hour.

To insure other employers weren’t abusing those with disabilities in a similar manner Rep.Ryan Fecteau to action.