Referendum to raise minimum wage qualifies for November ballot

The office of Maine’s Secretary of State today announced that Mainers for Fair Wages has succeeded in gathering the signatures necessary to place a referendum to raise the minimum wage before voters for the November, 2016 General Election.

Of 86,438 signatures collected in total, 75,275 were found to be valid after being reviewed by town clerks and the Secretary of State, far more than the 61,123 signatures necessary to qualify. The large number of signatures all-but guarantees that there won't be be a challenge to validity of the petitions.

If voters approve the initiative in November, Maine's minimum wage will increase to $9 an hour in 2017 and then a dollar each year until it reaches $12 in 2020. It will then increase with the cost of living. The sub-minimum wage for tipped workers will also increase on a gradual basis until it reaches the full minimum wage after 2024.

"Raising the minimum wage means improving the lives of more than one hundred and thirty thousand Mainers who are working hard, spending countless hours away from their families, frequently at more than one job, and still can't make ends meet," said Mainers for Fair Wages campaign manager Amy Halsted. "This campaign is about helping single mothers raising children, and helping seniors who can't afford to retire. It's about creating a level playing field for local, small businesses and boosting the state economy by making sure Mainers who work hard aren't earning poverty wages."

The signature goal was reached through the help of hundreds of volunteers who circulated petitions and more than 5,000 individual donors who have so far contributed to raising $325,000 for the campaign, with an average contribution of just $35.

"We're looking forward to building on the grassroots movement that made this milestone possible and continuing a strong, engaging campaign through to November," said Halsted.