Maine small businesses endorse minimum wage increase

Maine small businesses endorse minimum wage increase

More than 150 Maine small businesses announced their public support today for Mainers for Fair Wages’ ballot campaign to raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.

“These small business owners who offered their public support for the campaign at this early stage know that raising the minimum wage will be a boon for businesses and employees alike,” said Will Ikard, director of the Maine Small Business Coalition, which organized the event. “Small business owners know first-hand the benefits of investing in their workers, and we expect this early enthusiasm to grow as the campaign continues.”

Ikard and business owners present at the launch event at The Briar Patch bookstore in Bangor asked other storefront businesses to join them in placing a sign in their window showing their support for increasing the minimum wage.

“We support raising the statewide minimum wage because it’s the right thing to do. Anyone who works full-time deserves to be able to support their families and make ends meet. It’s only fair,” said Gibran Graham, marketing manager for The Briar Patch, who also sits on the Bangor City Council. “It’s also good for the local economy. When working Mainers have a little more money in their pockets, they spend it locally at restaurants and stores like this one. The entire community does better.”

The citizens’ initiative, which would be on the ballot in November, 2016, would raise Maine’s minimum wage to $9 in 2017 and then by $1 a year until it reaches $12 by 2020. After that it would increase at the same rate as the cost of living. The initiative would also incrementally raise the tipped minimum wage until it matches the minimum wage for all other workers by 2024.

“Raising the minimum wage is a matter of basic fairness for working Mainers, but it would also make a more level playing field for my business,” said Elena Metzger, owner of Northeast Reprographics, a print and copy shop in downtown Bangor. “I’m competing against large corporations who are not personally invested in the people or community of Bangor. With a higher minimum wage, these big corporations would have to do the right thing like I already do and provide for their employees.”

Signature collection for the referendum began in early June with a series of grassroots kick off events across the state. In less than two months the campaign has reached the quarter-mark in its goal to collect 85,000 signatures by the January qualifying deadline and has received over 2,000 grassroots contributions from Mainers across the state, including from hundreds of small business owners.

“When I’m out knocking on doors and talking to folks in towns across the state I hear the same thing – Mainers are ready to raise the minimum wage,” said Kate Hall, Bangor Field Manager for Mainers for Fair Wages. “In Fairfield, I met a woman who was a single mom and has to work three minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. Her story is one that I hear often and it’s a reminder of why we’re here today – it’s not right that a mother can work full time and still not have enough money to cover basic necessities for her family.”

The list of initial small business endorsers is online here. More information on the campaign is available at www.fairwagemaine.com.

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