Maine Just Scored a Huge Victory for Minimum Wage

November 8th 2016

Almie Rose

Voters in Maine hit the polls and decided to pass a measure to raise the minimum wage, the Associated Press reports.

Maine's ballot initiative, Question 4, increases the minimum wage by a dollar every year to an eventual $12 by 2020 — with an immediate increase from $7.50 to $9 in 2017.

However, the battle over Question 4 was contentious. In October, Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) likened the proposed increase to "attempted murder," believing the increase would impact senior citizens.

"To me when you go out and kill somebody, you go to jail," LaPage said, according to Central Maine. "Well, this is attempted murder in my mind because it is pushing people to the brink of survival." It appears his reasoning is that the increase will result in retired people on fixed incomes being unable to afford general consumer goods, though it's unclear how exactly this would devastate the retired community to "the brink of survival."

But many saw the proposed increase as a massive benefit to those in service-sector jobs.

As Bangor Daily News (BDN) reports, "in Cumberland County, the starting pay for 57,440 jobs is less than $9 per hour, according to data from the Maine Department of Labor’s 2015 wage reports. That’s about a third of all jobs in the county."

The Portland Press Herald, Portland, Maine's paper, was also in favor of raising the minimum wage, citing the millions of struggling workers who would benefit — not just teenagers with part-time jobs, as some have mistakenly assumed:

"Of the estimated 133,000 Mainers who would be directly affected by the wage increase, only 16,000 are teens, and more than half work full-time. Add in the Mainers who make at or just above $12 a hour now and can reasonably expect a wage increase of some kind, and 90 percent of those affected are over 20. More than half are between 20 and 39. Another third are seniors. One in four supports a child."

Some restaurant workers, however, opposed Question 4.

The passing of Question 4 also means "phas[ing] out the lower minimum wage for tipped workers — $3.75 per hour — over a decade so restaurant servers would eventually qualify for the new minimum wage," BDN states. But in the meanwhile, some worry that could mean "more competition" among these workers to keep their jobs, and they believe it will affect their tips as well.