Republican legislators in Augusta are again thwarting the will of the voters by rushing through a reduction of the minimum wage and an ageist sub-minimum wage for teens. UPDATE: LD 1757 is legislatively dead, but Gov LePage and Republican legislators are threatening to hold other unresolved issues hostage by refusing to extend the legislative session unless a minimum wage rollback is passed.
SUM Admin C2A
UPDATE: LD 1757 is legislatively dead, but Gov LePage and Republican legislators are threatening to hold other unresolved issues hostage by refusing to extend the legislative session unless a minimum wage rollback is passed.
In 2016 Mainers voted to incrementally raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $12/hour by 2020. On January 1, the wage took its second step up to $10/hour. Defying the business lobby’s dire predictions that the raise would cause job losses and slow growth, the opposite has proven true. Between January and June of last year, employment increased in nearly every industry, including low-wage industries like retail and restaurants. Maine’s unemployment rate hit a 40-year low in 2017, and remains well below the national average. Despite the positive economic indicators, Governor LePage and Republican legislators are once again thwarting the will of the voters by attempting to roll back the wage increase. Their bill, LD 1757, would not only reduce this year’s wage to $9.50/hour, it also halves the amount of each future incremental raise, caps the minimum wage increase at $11 instead of $12/hour, eliminates the mandated cost of living increase that would have kicked in in 2021, and creates a 20% lower sub-minimum wage for teenagers and a 3-month 15% lower sub-minimum “training wage” for 18 and 19 year olds. The bill failed in the House, and passed in the Senate. When the House took a second vote to attempt to concur with the Senate decision, the motion failed, meaning that the bill died in non-concurrence.
Update 4/30: Gov. LePage continues to blast Maine minimum wage increase, and now House Republicans tightly aligned with him have issued an ultimatum that they won’t support the passage of basically anything, including extending the 2018 Legislative session, unless the rest of the Legislature agrees to curtail or slow down the scheduled minimum wage increases. That puts dozens of bills on the cusp of enactment at risk, including one that releases $1 billion in subsidies for public schools that was already appropriated last year.
Updated: Make sure legislators who voted against the minimum wage rollback know that you expect them to maintain the will of the voters, and that they should not be blackmailed into circumventing the legislative process. See how your representatives voted on LD 1757. See how your senators voted on LD 1757. Rollcall translator: “Yay” is in favor of reducing the minimum wage, “Nay” is against.
- The minimum wage increase was passed by 55% of Mainers who voted in 2016. This bill thwarts the will of the voters and takes money out of Mainers’ pockets.
- Maine businesses and its economy are thriving, not suffering, as a result of the wage increase. New 2017 data shows that job growth is up in all sectors and unemployment rates are down.
- Economists understand that raising the minimum wage is one of the best ways to boost the economy. Every extra dollar that goes to a low-wage worker creates $1.21 worth of economic activity, while every dollar that goes into the pockets of high-earning Americans adds just 39 cents to the national economy.
- Automatically adjusting to cost of living increases means that Mainers will never suffer from poverty wages again. Removing this mandate puts future workers at risk.
- Nearly 1 in 3 working seniors benefit from the wage increase.
- A training wage that only applies to teenagers is discriminatory and violates the Maine Equal Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on age. Many adults switch careers or enter new jobs and also require training, but they would not be paid less while they get it. This bill would allow an individual with experience to be paid less than another individual without experience, solely based on age.
- Paying teens less for equal work is wrong. Teenagers fill a critical gap for employers who need sporadic, part time, or seasonal help. Most teens have significant expenses just to be able to work, and fewer hours to earn the money needed to pay for them. 27% of teens affected by this bill are living in poverty, and many are also saving for or paying for college. Their wages are not “pocket money.”
- Requiring young workers to receive a 3-month “training wage” creates an incentive for employers to treat their workers as disposable assets, especially in Maine’s highly seasonal industries. Employers would be encouraged to hire workers on a temporary basis at the lower wage, let them go at the end of that period, and then rehire the next season at the same low training wage.
- Republicans who argue that adults should be rewarded for their experience should advocate for businesses to pay those workers MORE than the minimum wage, instead of advocating for businesses to pay teens less.