Governor Paul LePage’s spent the majority of his radio address this week railing against voter-approved minimum wage increases and criticizing economists who have cited statistics showing that the raises have increased incomes without reducing employment or hours. LePage also took the opportunity to argue for reducing Maine’s child labor protections, arguing that eliminating required employment permits for 14 and 15-year-olds would allow businesses to avoid pressure to raise wages above the minimum, presumably by paying their younger workers lower rates.
“Instead of listening to progressive falsehoods, let’s listen to our employers, who testified to the Legislature that they’ll cut hours and raise prices if the minimum wage increases,” said LePage. “We need to take the pressure off wages. One way to do this is to allow our 14- and 15-year-olds to enter the workforce more quickly by eliminating the work-permit requirement during summer months.”
According to the governor’s calculations, “this would make almost 30,000 workers immediately available to employers.”
Reacting to the address, Mike Tipping, communications director for the Maine People’s Alliance, which was behind the citizens initiative to raise the minimum wage, wrote on Twitter: “That’s a pretty stunning admission from the governor that the reason to weaken child labor laws is to undercut wages for other workers.”
LePage had attempted to cut the minimum wage this year with a bill that failed to pass the legislature. Lawmakers have adjourned for the session but are expected back next Wednesday to vote again on bills vetoed by the governor. Republican House Minority Leader Ken Fredette has said that his party is set on cutting future wage increases, leaving open the possibility that the GOP will try yet again to pass a minimum wage rollback bill.
Department of Interior official photo