Portland’s minimum wage will give all workers a boost

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The new law honors the hardworking service workers in our city while making sure that all participants can prosper.

With federal and state governments stalled, the Portland City Council listened to residents, economists and other knowledgeable people, then stepped up and enacted a higher minimum wage. As Gov. LePage has said on other subjects, important decisions should be left to the government operating closest to the people.

On Jan. 1, 2016, Portland’s minimum wage for all workers will rise from the state minimum of $7.50 to $10.10. A year later, it increases to $10.68 and annually thereafter will increase with the cost of living.

With the council vote, Portland became one of just 20 of the nation’s 20,000 municipalities to adopt a wage above prevailing state and federal minimums. No other municipality in New England or the Eastern Seaboard outside Washington, D.C., has done so. Continue reading

Some, minimum wage workers have to wait too long for food stamps in Maine

From: Action from DHHS is demanded as Maine ranks last in food assistance program delivery

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By Ramona du Houx

According to the Food and Nutrition Service’s most recent report, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has the lowest application procession timeliness rate in the country for the food stamp program— known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

From January to June of 2015 the state’s processing time rate was 68.97 percent. It is an appalling figure that has led Maine to become known as the worst state in delivering SNAP assistance. Maine is now ranked 53 out of 53 agencies that deliver SNAP.

Applicants should receive SNAP benefits by the 7th day from the date of application. Maine’s worst processing case, number 78901234 of 2014, took 59 days to process.

Imagine the anxiety of a parent having to wait for assistance to feed their children.

Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond is demanding immediate accountability from DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew and Gov. Paul LePage after the Department of Health and Human Services over the issue.

“While more and more people in our state don’t have enough to eat, the Department is dragging its feet,” said Sen. Alfond. “Maine children and seniors who are playing by the rules and eligible for food assistance are left hungry and waiting because DHHS can’t or won’t do its job.”

It’s important to remember that SNAP is a federal program where no state funds are used.

In a Dec. 7 letter, the U.S. Department of Agriculture notified DHHS that it faced a potential loss of federal SNAP administration funds if DHHS doesn’t improve its delivery rate. In fiscal year 2014, that funding was roughly $10.2 million.

The letter outlined the Department’s failure to process SNAP applications on time. Those delays mean hungry Mainers miss more meals because of broken DHHS bureaucracy. It detailed the state’s “chronically poor performance” in meeting laws “meant to protect a low-income household’s right to receive nutrition assistance benefits in a timely manner.”

If DHHS loses its contract with the federal government to deliver SNAP in a timely way — so people are not put at risk from hunger — the federal government would find another agency to deliver the SNAP benefits to people.

The letter also described DHHS’s failure to adequately address problems in its administration of SNAP, which have been raised again and again by the USDA.

“DHHS has shown a brazen disregard for accountability,” said Sen. Alfond. “They have bristled at those who would hold them responsible for the dangerous conditions at Riverview, the sudden decision to end contracts that provide needed health care services, and now, the failure to administer the SNAP program. Now the state faces a potential multi-million dollar penalty for that mismanagement.”

Sen. Alfond is exploring his options to hold the department accountable and ensure it is fulfilling its mission to serve Maine people.

Sen. Alfond is also leading an effort to ensure school children are fed during summer months when there is no access to meals at their schools.

Bangor, Maine to decide on minimum wage on Dec. 14, 2015

Bangor voters can show us all – raising wages is the right thing to do

Joe Baldacci serving spaghetti at his minimum wage spaghetti dinner. photo by Ramona du Houx

Joe Baldacci serving spaghetti at his minimum wage spaghetti dinner. photo by Ramona du Houx

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. Continue reading

The Minimum Wage at $7.25; It Should Be $21.16 — or Higher

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by Salvatore Babones

America’s minimum wage was raised to $7.25 per hour on July 24, 2009. It’s still there. Unlike almost all other federal benchmarks, the minimum wage is not updated for inflation.

The minimum wage reached its (inflation-adjusted) historic high in 1968, when it was raised from $1.40 to $1.60 per hour. Adjusted for inflation using the BLS online inflation calculator that would come to $10.55 per hour in 2012 dollars.
That $10.55 figure is the focus of a nationwide campaign organized by the National Employment Law Project (NELP). In today’s political climate it would certainly be a major accomplishment to achieve a $10.55 minimum wage. But $10.55 is still far too low.

Using 1968 as our benchmark for the minimum wage implies that low-wage Americans today should be making just as much as low-wage Americans were making 44 years ago. That benchmark is — frankly — ridiculous. Continue reading

If waitresses earned a decent minimum wage, our dignity might get a raise

According to one study, up to 80% of waitresses have experienced sexual harassment on the job. Photograph: Ted Pink / Alamy/Alamy

According to one study, up to 80% of waitresses have experienced sexual harassment on the job. Photograph: Ted Pink / Alamy/Alamy


Editorial by Annie Quandt, a server working in the Old Port and a resident of Westport Island. First appeared in the PPH

When you are sexually harassed in a restaurant yet depend on tips, it’s 
harder to voice a protest. By now, everyone on social media has seen something about the New Jersey waitress who got an “LOL” as a tip on a $112 check last summer.

While I’ve never had someone completely stiff me because it took them a while to get their food – the customers’ rationale in the New Jersey incident, as they noted on the receipt – I frequently find myself putting up with almost anything from customers in order to get the tips that make up half of my income.

In Maine, 82 percent of all tipped restaurant workers are women, and any woman who has worked for tips will tell you that sexual harassment and rude comments are, sadly, just another part of the job.

When your customers pay your wages instead of your employer, you don’t have the luxury of speaking up when you feel uncomfortable or disrespected; if rent is due that week or you have a family to feed, you just have to put up with it.

I’ve been working at a restaurant on Commercial Street in Portland for just about a year now, and I just picked up a second serving job on Commercial Street to make ends meet. Recently, two men came in, clearly intoxicated, and sat at their table for an hour and a half trying to look up the waitresses’ skirts.

All of the women working that night could feel these men leering and were uncomfortable and anxious the whole shift. When we complained to management, they told us to cut off their alcohol consumption – but nothing else was done.

These types of incidents are commonplace in the restaurant industry. I have been asked out on dates, with the customer’s pen hovering over the tip line as he waited for my answer. I have been asked for my number more times than I can count. I have had customers comment on my outfit or my body while I’m working. I’ve wanted to say something, but the customer is always right … right?

When women servers can’t defend themselves from rude behavior from customers, the entire restaurant culture begins to accept it as the norm. Even management plays a role in harassment in this industry.

If you’re not “date ready” when you show up for your shift, in some restaurants, you’ll be told to change or unbutton your top or to put on more makeup to make yourself appealing. In my case, the managers have made it clear that the curvier girls are not allowed to wear certain clothing items, while the more slender servers can wear whatever they want to work.

Comments like this about body types and personal style not only make us all feel watched and uncomfortable but also sometimes make it more difficult for us to do our jobs. When I’m sweeping and cleaning and doing side work in 95-degree heat, the freedom to wear a skirt versus jeans is almost a necessity.

Complaints about sexual harassment from co-workers are rarely taken seriously in restaurants. It is always tough to report unwanted attention or harassment from co-workers or customers, but it is especially difficult if the harassment comes from management.

Where do you turn when the person who holds power over you at your job is the one harassing you? What happens if you do make a formal complaint? The restaurant industry is a tight-knit community, and if any employer thinks you might be a hassle, they won’t hire you.

Servers wield so little power in their positions and in their wages, and I am inclined to think that the two are inextricably linked.

According to a Restaurant Opportunities Centers United survey, servers working in states like Maine – where there is a sub-minimum wage for tipped workers – are three times more likely to experience harassment on the job than servers who work in states where everyone makes the same minimum wage.

This is evidence of a systemic problem – combined with the fact that, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 7 percent of American women work in restaurants but 37 percent of all EEOC sexual harassment complaints come out of this industry. We’re allowing an entire industry full of hardworking women to go to work with the presumption that they will be harassed.

I support the 2016 “wages with dignity” referendum, which would raise the minimum to $12 by 2020 and eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers by 2024. Earning the same minimum wage as other workers would mean tipped workers wouldn’t feel like they have to ingratiate themselves with their customers regardless of their behavior.

It would mean that management and our co-workers would have to respect us as equals (because when you are paid less, you must obviously be worth less). And it would mean a stable wage for the long winters and tough weekday shifts when servers are more willing to sacrifice dignity at work in order to make ends meet.

I deserve dignity on the job, and one fair minimum wage would help me get it.

A higher minimum wage in Bangor will be up to the city council- so vote!

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While Baldacci is pushing his original proposal, which boosts Bangor wages sooner, he said Friday it is still possible the council will take up the compromise proposal after the election.

Excerpts from a Bangor Daily Article. View the piece HERE. By Evan Belanger, BDN Staff

A proposal to increase wages for Bangor’s lowest-paid workers will likely live or die based on the results of the Nov. 3 City Council election, but a recent poll of candidates shows most oppose the idea.

The issue of a local minimum wage has loomed over the election since July when the council agreed to delay consideration of the proposed ordinance until Nov. 23.

Since then, the hotly contested political battle has attracted outside interest from statewide groups such as the Maine People’s Alliance, a liberal-leaning advocacy group, and the Maine Restaurant Association, a statewide organization that promotes the food industry.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 9.57.28 AM“What we did was preserve the opportunity for the new councilors to weigh in on this and see where it goes,” City Councilor Joe Baldacci said last week.

Baldacci first proposed the local minimum wage in February. But he was unable to secure enough support to pass the ordinance under the council’s existing membership, with five councilors opposing it and four supporting it.

Supporters at the time were Councilors Gibran Graham, Sean Faircloth, Patricia Blanchette and Baldacci. Opponents were Councilors David Nealley, Pauline Civiello, Nelson Durgin, Josh Plourde and Ben Sprague.

Now — with three seats open on the council — the tally of councilors who are not stepping down or facing re-election is a 3-3 tie on the issue. Blanchette, who moved to Florida in July, is not eligible for re-election due to term-limit restrictions. Continue reading

Maine business owners support minimum wage referendum and want a fair tax system

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 10.18.47 AMSee Maine Insights article HERE.
By Ramona du Houx

Main Street Alliance (MSA), a national organization committed to providing a voice for small business owners, today released the results of a survey of over 1,000 small business owners on varied public policy issues. The small business owners were asked about issues ranging from corporate taxes to job quality issues, as well as local policies that affect small businesses. The results of the surveys reveal that many small business owners share views at odds with the most high-profile business lobby groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

In Maine, a huge majority (87 percent) of surveyed small business owners support the proposed referendum to raise Maine’s minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020. The referendum is sponsored by the Maine People’s Alliance and has been endorsed by the Maine Small Business Coalition.

John Costin, who was featured in the report and owns Veneer Services Unlimited in Kennebunk.

John Costin, who was featured in the report and owns Veneer Services Unlimited in Kennebunk.

“Raising the minimum wage in Maine will help keep our products and services affordable and attainable to a larger customer base. Increased demand for our work will help us continue to create high-paying jobs – reducing unemployment and increasing sales, driving growth throughout the state,” said John Costin, who was featured in the report and owns Veneer Services Unlimited in Kennebunk. Continue reading

Full time workers still need public assistance to survive

By PATRICIA COHEN APRIL 12, 2015 this is a New York Times article read it in full HERE.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 6.06.30 PMA home health care worker in Durham, N.C.; a McDonald’s cashier in Chicago; a bank teller in New York; an adjunct professor in Maywood, Ill. They are all evidence of an improving economy, because they are working and not among the steadily declining ranks of the unemployed.

Yet these same people also are on public assistance — relying on food stamps, Medicaid or other stretches of the safety net to help cover basic expenses when their paychecks come up short.

And they are not alone. Nearly three-quarters of the people helped by programs geared to the poor are members of a family headed by a worker, according to a new study by the Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California. As a result, taxpayers are providing not only support to the poor but also, in effect, a huge subsidy for employers of low-wage workers, from giants like McDonald’s and Walmart to mom-and-pop businesses.

“This is a hidden cost of low-wage work,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Berkeley center and a co-author of the report.

Taxpayers pick up the difference, he said, between what employers pay and what is required to cover what most Americans consider essential living costs.The report estimates that state and federal governments spend more than $150 billion a year on four key antipoverty programs used by working families: Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps and the earned-income tax credit, which is specifically aimed at working families. Continue reading