Mainers will fight to protect minimum wage law

In November, over 420,000 Mainers voted to increase the minimum wage, more than have ever before supported a ballot initiative. Just a few months later, however, Maine’s new minimum wage law is already under assault, will bills introduced by Republican state legislators to roll back every aspect of the increase.

The bills to cut the minimum wage will be heard together on April 5th and the coalition of groups that fought for the increase are asking supporters to occupy the State House that day to protect the referendum result.

“Republicans have launched at least nine separate attacks on Maine’s new minimum wage, bills that would do everything from cut wages outright, to stop them from increasing in future years, to cutting raises for tipped workers and younger Mainers,” said Amy Halsted, campaign manager for Mainers for Fair Wages, in an email to supporters. “We are going to hold a day-long protest at the State House to say this isn’t right, and demand the legislature stand up for the will of Maine voters and the rights of Maine workers.”

The bills that will be heard April 5th include:

LD 673 and LD 702, which would cut wages for tipped workers, either immediately or starting next year

LD 774,  which would cut wages for college and high school students

LD 775,  which would cut future wage increases based on minimum wages in other states

LD 778, which would prevent the minimum wage from increasing with the cost of living

LD 831, which would cut the minimum wage from $10 to $9.37 next year, restrict future increases based on the minimum wages in other states and immediately cut wages for tipped workers.

LD 971 and LD 991, which would cut wages for Mainers under the age of 18

LD 1005, which would cap the minimum wage at $9 an hour and repeal the rest of the referendum entirely

All the bills will be heard by the Labor Committee on April 5th, with public testimony that will likely take the entire day.

“We’re asking folks to join us at 8:30am, but if you can come any time in the day that’s great too,” said Halsted. She urged minimum wage supporters to share the Facebook event for the day and RSVP to give testimony.

With a Republican-controlled Senate and a closely-divided House, the outcome for the bills are far from clear.

“If lawmakers don’t stand with Mainers on such a clear vote on such a fundamental issue, then what will they stand for? It’s time to make sure they listen.”

Photo: Mainers deliver signatures launching the minimum wage referendum in January, 2016.

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