Minimum wage increase celebrated at the State House

With Maine’s minimum wage increasing on January 7th, following overwhelming public approval of Question 4 at the polls in November, workers and business owners who are affected by the increase are visiting the State House this week to warn legislators not to defy the clear will of Maine voters.

The minimum wage will increase from $7.50 to $9 an hour this week and the subminimum wage for workers who receive tips will increase from $3.75 to $5 an hour. More than 100,000 Mainers stand to see an increase in their wages this year.

“The people have voted to raise the minimum wage for all Maine workers,” said Briana Volk, owner of the Portland Hunt + Alpine Club and Little Giant, both in Portland. “As a restaurant and retail owner, my employees who rely on what they earn to raise their families, pay for college, healthcare, and save for the future. There is no excuse to be paying anyone $3.75 in 2017. I am proud to already be paying my staff the proposed minimum wage or higher, so they can afford to live well. I hope our lawmakers agree.” Volk’s restaurants and retail operation currently employ 18 people, with plans to ramp up to 60 employees by May.

For Kathy Rondone, the 72-year-old star of one of Yes on Question 4’s most memorable television ads, the minimum wage increase can’t come soon enough.

“I’m at the State House speaking to legislators today because I want them to know just how many seniors need this raise,” said Rondone, who had retired but was forced to returned to work when her husband of 40 years was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “I never thought I’d still be working at my age, let alone for $7.50 an hour, but I’ve learned I’m far from alone. One in three Mainers over the age of 65 are set to get a raise under the new law. I’m not going to let Governor LePage and corporate lobbyists take that away.”

Facts on the minimum wage increase:

-    420,892 voters (55.5%) cast a yes vote for Question 4.
-    181,000 Mainers will see an increase in wages by the time the minimum wage increase is fully implemented in 2020.
-    Nearly one in three working seniors will see a wage increase.
-    According to the Maine Department of Labor, tipped workers in Maine make a median wage of just $9.06 per hour including tips.
-    Seven states (California, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada and Alaska) have no separate subminimum wage and experience the same rate of tipping as other states. According to the National Restaurant Association, six of these seven states are projected to have higher than average industry growth.

(Sources: Maine Secretary of State, Maine Center for Economic Policy, Maine Department of Labor, National Employment Law Project, Restaurant Opportunities Center United, National Restaurant Association)