“Being a small business owner is hard, and paying a living wage is never easy, but I don’t think we could be completely proud of the business we have built and its role in the community if we weren’t paying our employees a living wage.
“There have been times that we have not paid ourselves so that we can pay our employees an amount of money that they can live on, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We are successful because of who they are and because of their commitment to making this store work. We aspire to offer them more, and would be embarrassed to offer them less than a living wage,” said Zeth and Betsy Lundy. Photo by Jeff Kirlin.
With most of the economic recovery since the recession benefiting the highest wage earners, people earning a minimum wage have been drastically left behind, according to the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MCEP).
“Raising the minimum wage is critical to decreasing childhood poverty,” said Jim Wellehan, founder and owner of Lamey-Wellehan Shoes, who attended a Bangor Town Hall about the minimum wage. “It isn’t right to allow working mothers and Maine’s people to work at today’s low minimum wage.”
Many small business owners testified in Augusta in front of lawmakers in favor of a eight minimum wage bills this spring.
“I’ve started, owned, and invested in several small businesses in Maine over the years, and I would like to let you know that many small business owners want to see a raise to the minimum wage,” said Stephen Gottlieb of the Maine Small Business Coalition. “When health-care workers, waitresses, or janitors are paid more, they will spend that money in the community—creating more jobs and more small businesses. In this way, with this tide, all the boats rise together.”
The American economic social contract used to ensure someone who worked full time was able to at least make ends meet. Without indexing, wages have not kept up to cost of living increases, which has steadily eroded the social contract.
“When workers are paid more, they spend more money in their local economies. That helps the whole community, and all businesses do so much better,” said Joe Kubetz, who owns J. K. Landscaping Design in Portland, when he attended a Maine People’s Alliance training conference to collect signatures for a petition to raise the minimum wage in Maine to $12.