Restaurant owners and servers fight back against misinformation on Question 4

Restaurant owners and servers fight back against misinformation on Question 4

“As a small business owner, who is in the process of opening a second business early next year, I have been so saddened by the scare tactics that the Maine Restaurant Association and No on 4 have been using,” wrote Briana Volk, who co-owns the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, on Facebook.  “Raising the server minimum wage isn’t going to stop people from tipping, it’s not going to make prices go sky high and shut every restaurant down. It is going to let everyone who works a minimum wage job have better opportunities because they’ll have more money in their paycheck each month.”

Volk joins a chorus of restaurant owners and workers who are pushing back against a misinformation campaign attacking Question 4, the referendum to raise the minimum wage.

If passed on Tuesday, Question 4 will raise Maine’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $9 in 2017 and then by a dollar each year until it reaches $12 in 2020. It would also gradually increase the subminimum wage for service workers who receive tips from $3.75 to $5 in 2017 and then by a dollar a year until it reaches the full minimum wage after 2024. After that, the minimum wage would increase with the cost of living.

Seven states have no separate subminimum wage for workers who make tips. In those states, restaurant industry growth and restaurant employment are stronger and rates of tipping are also just as high or higher than in the rest of the country. Despite these clear examples, lobbyists representing the Maine Restaurant Association have continued to offer dire predictions should Question 4 pass, including claiming that it would somehow harm the workers whose wages would be raised.

“At Lubec Brewing Co. Brewery and Tap Room and the Sunrise Cafe, both in Lubec, we already pay our servers and kitchen staff a base wage of at least $10 per hour, with tips on top of that. We just cannot stomach the idea of making our living off the hard work of our employees if they are not able to make a living themselves,” wrote owner Gale White in an op-ed in the Bangor Daily News last week. “People who work hard should be paid a wage on which they can afford their basic living expenses.”

“Think about it: Do you tip more in New Hampshire, where the subminimum wage is lower? Would you tip less in New York, where it’s twice as high? Of course not,” wrote server Ali Monceaux in a letter to the Portland Press Herald. “Raising the wage simply means fewer of my colleagues will live in poverty. That’s why restaurant workers overwhelmingly support raising the minimum wage and why many restaurant owners have joined them. In fact, more Maine restaurants have now publicly endorsed Question 4 than oppose it.”

Nearly 80 percent of servers in Maine are women, and one in three are supporting families. The median wage for a waiter or waitress in Maine is $9.06 an hour, including tips, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Photo via Hunt and Alpine Club/Facebook.

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