Women lead in fight to protect Maine’s minimum wage increase

Women lead in fight to protect Maine’s minimum wage increase

With a slew of bills scheduled to be heard on Wednesday that could roll back every part of the minimum wage increase passed by referendum last November, Mainers are planning to rally at the State House to make sure their voices are heard, the will of the voters is respected and wages aren’t cut. At the forefront of the effort to protect the minimum wage are groups working on issues important to women.

“Last year, Maine voters sent a clear message: it’s time to raise the minimum wage. But now there are NINE bills to roll back Maine’s minimum wage law. We need your help to stop them!” reads a message from Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund asking supporters to join the rally on Wednesday.

Women make up a majority of low-wage workers and an even greater proportion of those helped by the increase to the sub-minimum base wage for tipped workers. Under the new law the sub-minimum wage is set to gradually increase to the full minimum wage over the next decade, a process that started with a 50-cent bump to $5 an hour this January, but several bills seek to cut that wage increase and/or prevent future ones, leading to a significant pay cut for predominantly-female workers.

“Women are nearly 80 percent of Maine’s tipped workers. Last November, Maine voters resoundingly agreed that it is time to do away with the lower tipped minimum wage that has kept nearly a fifth of women tipped workers living in poverty and made them especially vulnerable to sexual harassment on the job. Women and men in Maine deserve nothing less than one fair minimum wage, and lawmakers should reject all attempts to roll back any part of the wage increases that their constituents have demanded,” said Julie Vogtman, senior counsel and director of income support policy for the National Women’s Law Center.

“The median income for a Maine restaurant server is just $9.06 per hour. That’s a problem for the many thousands of Mainers struggling to provide for themselves and their families while the cost of groceries, housing, heat, electricity and transportation keeps climbing,” reads an email from the Maine Women’s Lobby. “We need you to stand with us on April 5th in support of the minimum wage increase to ensure workers receive the fair pay they deserve.”

Hearings on the rollback bills will go all day on Wednesday, with minimum wage supporters beginning to gather at 8:30 AM outside of room 208 in the Cross Office Building.

RSVP for the Rally Here

Photo: women leaders speak in support of Question 4 last year.

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