Corporate lobbyists admit they can’t beat $12 minimum wage referendum in Maine

Corporate lobbyists admit they can’t beat $12 minimum wage referendum in Maine

In an internal email, Maine Restaurant Association CEO Greg Dugal has made a rather stunning admission. Dugal wrote to the organization’s membership last month that the citizen initiative to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 was too popular to be defeated at the ballot box.

“We have concluded as an association that trying to defeat this referendum with the resources we have available, both monetarily and with limited staff, would be pretty close to impossible,” wrote Dugal in the February 18th email. “It has been 8 years since the last minimum wage increase and our detractors will use that against us and most likely will be successful.”

Dugal argues in the email that the only chance to stop the minimum wage increase advanced by Mainers for Fair Wages is to place a competing measure on the ballot. That legislative maneuver, which was promoted today in a State House press conference held by Dugal’s organization and other business groups, could potentially divide support between two minimum wage questions. That could cause both to lose to a none-of-the-above option or delaying any increase until an additional run-off election can be held.

Dugal and other corporate lobbyists have long opposed any minimum wage increase at all, including a bill for a 50-cent, one-time raise introduced just last year.

“A gradual increase in the minimum wage to $12 an hour is very popular in Maine, including among small business owners. In addition to Over 250 small business owners across the state have publicly endorsed this referendum. That’s because we all understand that low-income workers spend their money in our local economies and a raise will lift all boats,” said Will Ikard, director of the Maine Small Business Coalition. “These corporate lobbyists should stop playing political games and join many of their own business members in supporting a real increase in the minimum wage. It’s both morally right and economically smart.”

A recent survey by a business group in Portland found 69% of 105 local businesses support the statewide referendum to increase the minimum wage to $12 by 2020, index future increases to the cost of living and raise the sub-minimum wage for employees who receive tips to the full wage on a more gradual timeframe. Only 12% were opposed.

​”We worked to make this referendum happen because we know how many people it would help. In fact, we know plenty of them personally,” said Melissa Stevens, a volunteer for Mainers for Fair Wages, at a press conference earlier this week. “If the corporate lobbyists who are trying to derail the minimum wage initiative want to get a question on the ballot, they should have to do the same. If they think the people are with them, they should stand outside WalMart with a clipboard instead of trying to make a back-room deal in Augusta.”

In a Youtube video released today, Maine State Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Peter Gore argued that the competing measure proposal was not simply a cynical political ploy.

“The legislature has the power invested in them by the constitution to authorize the inclusion of a competing measure in the citizen referendum process. There’s nothing hidden or backroom about it,” said Gore.

Ask your representative to support a clean vote on the minimum wage


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