500 Maine small businesses back minimum wage referendum

500 Maine small businesses back minimum wage referendum

Local business owners from across Maine gathered at Fork and Spoon Downtown Eatery in Bangor today to announce that more than 500 small businesses have now endorsed the referendum on the ballot this November to raise Maine’s minimum wage. They framed raising the wage as both a basic moral issue and a chance to invest in Maine communities and build strong local economies.

“Like so many other Maine small business owners, we already pay well above the current minimum wage,” said Tim Rich, owner of The Independent Café in Bar Harbor. “No one can live on $300 per week and no one who works hard deserves to be paid that little. I want my employees to be able to support their families and thrive.”

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 a dollar a year until it reaches $12 in 2020. It would also raise the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers from $3.75 to $5 in 2017 and then a dollar a year until it reaches $12 in 2024.

smoothie_forkandspoon“I support raising the minimum wage because it’s the right thing to do, it’s good for my business, and will be a boost for the next generation of Maine entrepreneurs,” said Patrick Kelley, owner of Clockwork Baking Company and the Coastal Café and Bakery in Searsport. “I truly believe that this referendum will not only help those 160,000 Mainers who will get a raise but help all of our communities to thrive.”

Nearly a quarter of Maine’s workforce would see a wage increase if the ballot measure passes, including one in three single parents in Maine. 90% of those affected are age 20 or older and represent professions including home health aides, restaurant workers, paramedics and education techs.

“When my parents were young, the minimum wage was much higher in real dollars. Young people could work minimum wage jobs during their high school and college years and make enough to pay their way through college. I can’t do that today on $8 per hour,” said Kirsten Costedio of Corinna, a college student who works at a casual restaurant in Newport.  “That means it’ll be harder for me to buy a house or start a business when I graduate. I may even have to leave Maine to find a higher-paying job.”

The Maine Small Business Coalition, which organized the event, also announced that next week they will be holding a Fair Wage Restaurant Week, encouraging supporters to visit some of the more than 50 restaurants across the state that have endorsed the campaign.

“When you do, snap a photo of your meal, share it on social media, and include the hashtag #FairWageME. We’ll share some of our favorites and every photo enters you for a chance to win a gift card to one of these restaurants near you,” explained MSBC director Will Ikard. “These are businesses that are standing up and doing the right thing and we should be sure to thank them for it.

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