The photographic series above, People at Work: The Low Wage Earners of Maine, depicts some of our fellow neighbors who work for the state’s minimum wage of just $7.50 an hour. The dedicated photographer, Jeff Kirlin, works in his free time documenting them and has set up #MaineLivingWage #RaiseTheWage to share them.
“The photography project was started after I was told by a person, in a position to help bring about a higher minimum wage, that he didn’t feel it was a real problem because it hasn’t been brought to his personal attention,” said Jeff, a speech therapist and Bangor based photographer. “This project is intended to give, not a voice, but a platform for those earning low wages and their supporters, and how their lives are affected by stagnant wages.”
This website is dedicated to raising awareness about how the current minimum wage is a poverty wage. We will chronicle statewide events and bring you updates on the efforts to raise Maine’s minimum wage— until a livable minimum wage for Maine is achieved.
According to the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute (EPI) the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is worth $2 less today than it was in 1968 when adjusted for inflation. An Alliance for a Just Society estimates that $15.82 would be a livable wage. Maine’s current minimum wage forces far too many families onto welfare rolls and the need for federally subsidized healthcare.
Someone working 40 hours a week at the federal minimum wage of $7.25, would earn $290 each week—or $15,080 every year—$4,610 below the federal poverty level. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s local wage calculator, at today’s minimum wage a single mother in Maine would have to work 138 hours per week just to survive without government assistance programs like Medicaid and the SNAP (food stamps.)
“Nobody working a 40 hour week should live in poverty,” said former Mayor of Bangor Joe Baldacci.
Last February Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci proposed an ordinance that would incrementally increase the minimum wage in the city, beginning with $8.25 per hour in 2016, to $9 an hour in 2017, and advancing to $9.75 in 2018.
Joe has also started hosting spaghetti dinners across the state to generate support and awareness for raising the minimum wage, as well as to give people information about the Maine Peoples Alliance’s (MPA) petition drive to steadily increase Maine’s minimum wage to $12.00 an hour There will be upcoming events in Bangor, Portland, Millinocket, and Presque Isle.
“These spaghetti dinners have always been a great opportunity to bring the community together for a family dinner that encourages discussion and unity on important working class issues,” said Joe. “I hope these dinners will help generate a grassroots push for a statewide minimum wage increase.”
City Councilor Baldacci has already held a town forum in Bangor, and spoke on the issue in Waldo County, and Washington County.