Gov. LePage declares “war” on minimum wage, mocks restaurant workers and immigrants

Gov. LePage declares “war” on minimum wage, mocks restaurant workers and immigrants

Remarks from a speech to the state Republican Party convention this weekend by Maine Governor Paul LePage have already begun making national and international news.

During his speech, LePage declared that he would be waging a “little war” against the referendum on the ballot this November to gradually increase Maine’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. He also claimed that restaurant workers in Maine don’t need a raise, joking that his wife would be starting a second career as a waitress.

The average wage for a restaurant server in Maine, including tips, is $8.72 an hour.

What prompted the most media attention, however, was LePage’s comments mocking immigrants, a frequent target of his attacks.

“Already our restaurants in the summer, if you go on the coast, it’s hard to hear what they’re saying. You ever try to say ‘what’s the special today?’ to somebody from Bulgaria? And the worst ones, they’re from India. I mean they’re all lovely people, but it takes some – you’ve got to have an interpreter. Or how many of you have gone and tried to return something from Amazon on a telephone?” said LePage.

LePage also admitted that his legislative proposal on the minimum wage, which his allies had attempted to claim was not a competing measure, was in fact exactly that.

“Representative Fredette and the Senate President, Thibodeau, have been trying to get a competing measure so that we’d have a fighting chance and the Democrats said no,” said the governor.

The referendum on the ballot this November would raise Maine’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $9 an hour in 2017 and then a dollar a year until it reaches $12 an hour in 2020. Further increases would be tied to the cost of living and the subminimum wage for workers, like restaurant servers, who receive tips, would be phased out over a longer period of time.

“Raising the minimum wage will help 159,000 Maine workers who are struggling to make ends meet for their families.” said Mainers for Fair Wages communications director Mike Tipping. “Governor LePage is trying to drive us apart, but it won’t work. This is a common-sense measure that both helps Maine families and boosts our local economies. It’s long past time for Maine to raise the minimum wage.”

The referendum is backed by a coalition that includes the Maine AFL-CIO, the Maine People’s Alliance and the Maine Small Business Coalition.

Photo via Twitter/Governor LePage

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