Starting next week, Maine voters will see television advertisements featuring several of the more than 600 Maine small business owners that support the campaign to raise the state’s minimum wage. Members of the Maine Small Business Coalition, one of the organizations championing the wage increase, told reporters on Wednesday that they believe raising the minimum wage is a question of fairness and economics and that they are proud to be featured in these ads.
"It’s just fair that if someone gives forty hours a week of work to our business that they should be able to support their family,” said Adam Baril, co-owner of Paris Auto Barn in South Paris, Maine, and one of the business owners featured in the ads. “More than that, raising the minimum wage will benefit all local businesses. When working people in Oxford County get a raise, they’ll be better able to spend it on maintenance and repairs to keep their vehicles safer. Small businesses and workers will both benefit from raising the minimum wage."
The referendum question on the ballot this November will ask Mainers if they’d like to raise the minimum wage in Maine from $7.50 to $9 in 2017 and then by a dollar a year until it reaches $12 in 2020. It would also raise the subminimum wage for tipped workers from $3.75 to $5 in 2017 and then a dollar a year until it reaches $12 in 2024.
In Maine, workers who earn tips are paid a separate subminimum wage of $3.75 an hour from their employer, with the expectation that the rest of their pay is made up in tips from customers. On average, tipped workers are some of the lowest paid workers in Maine; the Maine Department of Labor places the median wage for restaurant servers in Maine at $9.06, including tips.
Supporters of Question 4 argue that relying on the generosity of customers as the source of their wages is a fundamentally unfair wage system that creates an environment of unsteady pay and unreliable work hours. Michael Landgarten, who owns Bob’s Clam Hut, Lil’s Café, and Robert’s Maine Grill in Kittery, agrees.
"Across the three restaurants, we employ more than 300 people. I believe every one of them - from fry cooks to bussers, from servers to sous chefs - deserve to be paid a fair wage for their work,” said Landgarten. “I look forward to a system where every restaurant worker is paid a decent wage and can benefit from tips that are given, without being subjected to the whims – and even sexual harassment – of their customers. I’m voting Yes on Question 4 to help professionalize our industry and to help make an economy that works for everyone."
Watch the new TV ads:
Adam Baril and Tony Giambro - co-owners of Paris Autobarn; South Paris