Struggling seniors speak out for Question 4

Struggling seniors speak out for Question 4

Advocates for Maine seniors are backing the minimum wage increase on the ballot this November, and the campaign has launched its first TV ad highlighting the story of one of the many older Mainers who would get a raise if the minimum wage is raised to $12 by 2020.

“After my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I found myself caring for him and trying to make ends meet with an office job making $7.50 an hour. We lost our house because I couldn’t afford to make repairs,” said Kathy Rondone, whose story is featured in the ad. “I agreed to tell my story on TV because I’m not alone. One in three Mainers over the age of 65 will get a raise if Question 4 passes. I don’t think people realize how many senior citizens often have to keep working after what you might think is retirement age.”

If passed, Question 4 will increase Maine’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $9 in 2017 and then by one-dollar increments until it reaches $12 in 2020. It would also raise the subminimum wage for service workers who receive tips and the minimum wage would increase in future years with the cost of living. More than one in three Maine workers over the age of 65 would receive a raise once the policy is fully implemented.

“Over the years as I attend senior events, meetings and gatherings with family, I heard over and over again how folks could not retire because their Social Security checks were too low and had to continue working at minimum wage jobs,” said Diane Grandmaison, a board member of the Maine Alliance for Retired Americans. “We are endorsing Question 4 to raise the minimum wage because it’s time for all workers, including seniors, to make a fair wage.”

The campaign also released a new report from the National Employment Law Project studying the effects of raising the minimum wage on Maine seniors.

“Not only is Maine’s senior population increasing, but senior participation in Maine’s labor force has increased by 47% over the past decade,” said Mainers for Fair Wages campaign manager Amy Halsted, citing the report by NELP. “For the last eight years, the wages of Maine workers have stagnated, even as the costs of groceries, housing and prescription drugs have increased.”

In addition to raising direct wages for seniors, Question 4 would also increase wages for a wide range of health care workers and other professionals who play vital roles assisting Maine seniors and helping them to live independently.

“EMTs and home aides and health care workers are some of the hardest working people I know and they deserve to be paid fairly,” said Rondone. “They care for my husband at the veterans’ home and care for older people across the state. Too often they make poverty wages.

“Things shouldn’t be this way,” said Steve Husson a 64-year-old facilities worker from Hampden making less than $12 an hour. “If you work hard, full-time, you should be able to afford to live. When you work all your life, you should eventually be able to retire. Things are just out of whack.”

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