By Joe Baldacci, First appeared in the BDN
Posted Nov. 01, 2015, at 7:48 a.m.
The important debate over raising the minimum wage in Bangor most certainly will be affected by the decisions made by the voters on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Tuesday’s election is not only for the future of Bangor but for the future of Bangor’s values and leadership throughout the region. We have been leaders and innovators throughout our city’s history. By electing the right candidates, we can show Augusta, Washington, D.C., and the rest of the state of Maine that providing a livable wage to our citizens not only is morally right but economically right as well.
There are many fine candidates running for Bangor City Council. They may bring a host of ideas and experiences to the job of councilperson. Of this group, Meg Shorette and Sarah Nichols are the only ones fully committed to the issue of raising wages for those who live and work in Bangor.
Raising the minimum wage, which has been frozen for more than six years, is an issue of basic economic fairness. After decades where most families have seen their incomes stagnate, it is time that political leaders focus on how we can raise the wages of all workers and strengthen the American middle class.
The current minimum wage has a lower purchasing power than it did in 1968. While corporate profits are at an all time high, middle- and working-class family incomes continue to shrink. We can and should do something about that.
The Bangor minimum wage ordinance takes into account all those involved: workers, businesses and city administrators. It raises the minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.25 in the first year. In 2017, it increases again to $9 and in 2018 to $9.75. After that, the minimum wage will be tied to the consumer price index. It does not include tipped workers or those under the age of 18. It is a smart and measured way to help our citizens without hurting local businesses. These gradual steps allow business and the city to adjust to the changes while helping low-wage workers get closer to a living wage. It is a win-win for all those involved and is the right thing to do.
Many have asked, “Why should Bangor or any city adopt a local minimum wage ordinance?”
My first preference, as with most people, was to see a federal minimum wage increase. Unfortunately, we have a Congress that is actively hostile to any wage increase. That goes for the state level as well. The governor has vetoed and will continue to veto any minimum wage increase. He has gone so far as to sponsor legislation making it illegal for cities and towns to raise the minimum wage locally.
In order to get a higher minimum wage, Bangor needs to be a leader once again for Maine.
Over four terms on the City Council, I have fought for and helped pass policies that have brought hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to our region of Maine.
Being pro-growth and for raising the minimum wage is simply good business. Putting more money in workers’ pockets means more money they spend at local businesses. Raising wages helps keep people with full-time jobs off our welfare rolls and helps strengthen families and communities.
Shorette and Nichols clearly understand this.
They both have strong individual records of community service, and both will bring new blood and new energy to the City Council. Both want to work for policies that will help all Bangor families make ends meet and create jobs. They will fight for a city that works for everyone.
So, let’s vote to continue to move forward the important work of raising wages for all Maine workers. Let’s be leaders, economically and morally.
Joe Baldacci is a current Bangor city councilor and Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District of Maine.