Oxfam: Maine is worst in Northeast for low wages

A national report and set of maps released today by Oxfam and the Economic Policy Institute shows that Maine has fallen far behind neighboring states in the proportion of its workforce earning livable wages.

31.9% of Maine workers are currently paid less than $12 an hour, by far the highest in the Northeast. Maine also leads the region in the proportion of women paid less than $12 an hour (33%), the percentage of working families living in or near poverty (23.2%) and the percentage of private sector workers without access to any paid sick leave (42.3%).

“As the federal minimum wage has remained stuck at $7.25 over the past seven years, millions of workers have seen their wages decline in real value,” explain the authors of the report, who argue for raising the minimum wage and other policies of economic fairness, noting that “today the value of the wage is about 25 percent lower than its peak in 1968 (adjusted for inflation), despite continued increases in worker productivity.”

“Economists have long recognized that putting money into people’s pockets boosts purchasing power and has positive ripple effects for the entire economy,” they write.

According to the report, 29.3% of Maine children currently rely on parents paid less than $12 an hour.

A referendum on the ballot this November in Maine would raise the minimum wage from $7.50 to $9 in 2017 and then a dollar a year until it reaches $12 in 2020. It would also increase the sub-minimum wage for service workers who receive tips from $3.75 an hour to $5 in 2017 and a dollar a year until it reaches $12 in 2024.

The report features the photo and story of Ambre Davidson, a low-wage worker in Portland who explained to the Portland Press Herald last year that an increase in the minimum wage of even a few dollars would make “a huge impact” on her life.

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