Monday, February 18th, 2019

Maine’s businesses come together to raise state minimum wage

File Photo, BDN

Posted on March 21, 2016 in News
By Zachary Searles

Maine’s state minimum wage is $7.50 an hour and hasn’t been raised a cent since 2009. Some Maine businesses feel that isn’t good enough, causing a coalition of nearly 10,000 individual Maine business owners to call for an increase in the state minimum wage.

The coalition proposed a four step process. Starting in 2017, Maine’s minimum wage would increase to $8.50, then increase $.50 each year until 2020 when the wage per hour would reach $10.

The coalition is not calling for an index in the wages, so it would not be adjusted with inflation.

“Our coalition supports a meaningful increase in the minimum wage and wants to ensure that any increase is sustainable for the long term,” said Greg Dugal, president and CEO of the Maine Restaurant Association and the Maine Innkeepers Association, in a press release. “We are calling on Maine legislators to support a responsible option for voters to consider on this fall’s ballot.”

Several business owners in Maine have come out in favor of this plan, one of them being Chris Tyll, owner of Pat’s Pizza in Portland.

“I support raising the minimum wage and doing so in a way that is not harmful to small business owners,” said Tyll in a press release. “Eliminating the tip credit would hurt Maine’s vibrant restaurant industry by dramatically increasing the cost of doing business for restaurants, and others involved in Maine’s tourism industry.”

Last fall, voters in Portland decided against raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, citing that it would hurt small businesses in the city.

While the ballot initiative was shut down in Portland, at the start of the new year the hourly wage was increased to $10.10, with a plan to increase again at the start of 2017 to $10.68 and then in 2018 the minimum wage will be directly tied to the cost of living as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

Students at USM felt the benefit from the rise in the hourly wage, receiving an email just before the new year that stated USM would raise the hourly pay to all student workers making less than $10.10 an hour.

“While the city’s action does not technically apply to members of the USM family in Gorham and Lewiston, it is our strong belief that we function and succeed as one in reaching our institutional goals and objectives and therefore the minimum wage increase is rightly shared across our university,” President Glenn Cummings said in an email in late December.

Despite the state minimum wage being $7.50, some employers are already starting their employees out at a higher wage.

“The minimum wage in our business is $10 per hour and I am confident $10 per hour is sustainable for Maine businesses and Maine’s economy,” said Ken Keiran, owner of Union Farm Equipment in Union, in a press release. “However, increasing starting wages above that threshold would outpace our pricing support and force us to either raise prices or cut positions – both of which would be bad for Maine businesses.”

The coalition is looking to get the issue onto the ballot in November and let the people of Maine decide.

“We are proposing a significant increase in the minimum wage in Maine and we are calling on the Legislature to give the voters of Maine a choice when they go to the ballot box this fall,” said Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce in a press release.


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