Ballot question raising minimum wage to $15 will affect more than one Maine city

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From the Portland Press Herald. Photos here by Jeff Kirlin. Read the article HERE.

Advocates say the measure is needed to address rising living costs, while opponents say it will force businesses to shrink staff or move out.

BY EDWARD D. MURPHY STAFF WRITER

Members of Portland’s Green Independent Committee watched officials struggle with a plan to raise the city’s minimum wage this year and concluded it had a basic flaw: It was far too timid.

With other cities around the country – Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles among them – raising the minimum hourly pay to $15, Portland was settling too low by backing $10.10 an hour, said Mako Bates, one of the Green activists who believes that basic fairness requires a more dramatic increase. Continue reading

In Portland, Maine the debate over $15-per-hour minimum wage heats up as Portland referendum looms

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Article first appeared in the Forecaster.
By David Harry, The Forecaster

Nikki Brooks reflected on a financially satisfying career in the restaurant industry as she served drinks at DiMillo’s on the Waterfront last week.

“I’ve been a server and tender for 13 years,” she said. “You can directly see the fruits of your labor.”

Heather McIntosh, meanwhile, sitting Monday with her son, Liam, on the playground at Reiche Elementary School, said making a living in the city has become more difficult, with consequences that directly affect children.

“Everything is going up exponentially,” she said.

Brooks and McIntosh typify the opposing sides of Question 1, the Nov. 3 citizen initiative that would increase Portland’s minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Called a “living” wage by supporters, the ordinance affects all employers doing business in Portland, but not municipal employees because of rules in the City Charter.

The increases above the current state minimum wage of $7.50 per hour and the city wage of $10.10 — effective Jan. 1, 2016 — would come in stages, depending on the size of the company.

“Schedule A” companies with 500 or more employees would be required to pay the living wage by July 1, 2017. Smaller companies with fewer than 500 employees would be required to pay the wage by July 1, 2019.

The ordinance calls for gradual increases leading to the living wage which, after 2019, would increase based on the inflation rate measured by the U.S. Consumer Price Index.

If Question 1 passes, larger employers would have to pay $12 per hour beginning July 1, 2016. Smaller employers would be required to pay $10 per hour by July 1, 2016; $12 by July 1, 2017, and $13.50 by July 1, 2018.

Schedule A employers are measured by the number of employees nationwide, which will require local franchise holders to meet the $15 wage sooner.

If passed, the ordinance could not be amended for five years. Continue reading

Portland’s minimum wage will give all workers a boost

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By Jon Hinck in the Portland Press Herald

Portland’s minimum wage workers, like others across America, were overdue for a raise.

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.

What we know is that a higher minimum wage will put more money in the pockets of the lowest paid workers. It will help families make ends meet and get more money circulating in the local economy. For some employers, it will require an adjustment and their concerns were expressed and considered. This increase, however, puts the minimum wage back in line with historic levels adjusted for inflation. The raise was overdue. The new wage is in line with research showing a minimum wage set at 60 percent of area median wages yields economic benefits but forcing wages higher than that stifles employment. The median hourly wage in Portland’s region is $17.32, well below the national median of $24.99. Continue reading

When you live paycheck to paycheck, reporting discrimination or harassment becomes complicated

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

Life as a waitress too often means low pay and sexual harassment
In the Guardian By Amber Akemi Piatt

When I was 16, I worked part-time in a Los Angeles ice cream parlor where customers could tip us to make us sing. Like turning the crank on a jack-in-the-box toy, they would drop coins in our glass tips jar, and we would have to spring into song. Want more songs? Drop in more tips. We were their dancing monkeys. While doing this, our male customers would routinely address my female coworkers and myself as sugar and sweetie. It always made me uncomfortable, but I depended on their tip money. They had a position of power over me, and I simply saw no alternative to accepting that reality.

When I was 21, I worked in a restaurant, in addition to my part-time hours at a research center, in order to pay for my “public” undergraduate education. At the restaurant, I was paid minimum wage and only received a portion of pooled tips. I was one of several new servers – a group comprised of about 2/3 women and 1/3 men. New servers were eligible to become supervising servers after a subjective approval process. All the supervising servers, who enjoyed their full tips and a portion of ours, were men. One supervising server in particular repeatedly invited me to bars so that he could offer to buy me drinks with the tip money I had worked hard to earn. Other male coworkers left me anonymous, sexually explicit notes on my windshield while I was parked in our employee parking lot. Feeling objectified, devalued and unsafe practically became part of my job description. Continue reading

Current measures to raise Maine’s minimum wage

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“Maine workers find themselves working at least full time but still living in or near poverty, while having to care for their families at the same time,” said Rep. Gina Melaragno, D-Auburn, who submitted An Act to Raise the Minimum Wage and Index It to the National Average Wage. “They have seen the prices of everything go up except the price of their undervalued labor, and they are tired of being thrown a small token raise every five or six years. They want meaningful, lasting change.”
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.
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Portland, Maine reaffirms raising minimum wage to $10.10

From an article in Maine Insights:

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On September 9, 2015, the Portland City Council reaffirmed their commitment to raising the local minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in 2016 and $10.68 in 2017, becoming the first Maine municipality to act on their own to increase the minimum wage beyond $7.50.

“Last night, Portland gave final approval to raise the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. This important step will improve the lives of the low-wage workers who help form the backbone of our city’s thriving economy,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland. “We can be proud of our city for taking the lead on economic fairness, and providing an example for the rest of the state.” Continue reading

Union Membership Can Predict Children’s Advancement

 A minimum wage protest at Columbus Circle in New York City in April. EARL WILSON / THE NEW YORK TIMES


A minimum wage protest at Columbus Circle in New York City in April.
EARL WILSON / THE NEW YORK TIMES


An excerpt from an article by NOAM SCHEIBER, SEPTEMBER 9, 2015

A new study suggests that unions may also help children move up the economic ladder.

Researchers at Harvard, Wellesley and the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, released a paper Wednesday showing that children born to low-income families typically ascend to higher incomes in metropolitan areas where union membership is higher.

The size of the effect is small, but there aren’t many other factors that are as strongly correlated with mobility. Raj Chetty of Stanford, Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard, and Patrick Kline and Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, who pioneered this method of examining economic mobility, established five factors that are strongly correlated with a low-income child’s likelihood of making it into the middle class: the rate of single motherhood in an area, the degree of inequality, the high school dropout rate, the degree of residential segregation, and the amount of social capital, as measured by indicators like voter turnout and participation in community organizations.

Single motherhood is the most strongly correlated factor with mobility. The latest study, which relied on the Chetty/Hendren data, says union membership is roughly as strongly correlated with mobility as the other four factors.

“It’s a striking relationship,” said Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary and Obama economic adviser, who is participating in a discussion with some of the study’s authors on Wednesday. “It’s further grounds for concern about the decline of unionism in the United States.” Continue reading

Portland, Maine will try again to set higher minimum wage citywide

The following is part of the article in the Portland Press Herald.

Averil Burner, a server at David’s in Portland, waits on customers. Portland city councilors will consider ways to give tipped employees a higher minimum wage without putting an extra burden on restaurant owners. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Averil Burner, a server at David’s in Portland, waits on customers. Portland city councilors will consider ways to give tipped employees a higher minimum wage without putting an extra burden on restaurant owners. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The Portland City Council will take another whack at raising the minimum wage in the city Wednesday night, two months after its effort to increase it to $10.10 an hour got tripped up over how much tipped employees will earn.

The council adopted the higher minimum in early July, joining about two dozen other towns, cities or counties that have adopted higher floors for wages. The federal and state minimum wages, $7.25 an hour and $7.50 an hour, respectively, haven’t increased in six years.

But the council, apparently inadvertently, also raised the tipped minimum wage – the amount that workers, primarily those in restaurants, are paid by their employers, with the rest of their earnings expected to come in the form of tips.

That minimum wage in Maine is currently $3.75 an hour. That’s what the employer pays, with tips added on. If the server doesn’t make the minimum wage, the employer is supposed to make up the difference between the tipped employee minimum and the amount earned in tips and the overall minimum wage.

When the council upped the overall minimum to $10.10 in July, it also increased the tipped minimum to $6.35 a hour, increasing the amount that servers would get from their employers. In Portland, it’s not unusual for servers to earn more than $20 or $30 an hour, almost all of it from tips.

Restaurant owners complained that they were told by the city that the tipped minimum wouldn’t increase.

The council quickly suspended the new law, which is otherwise due to take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

Mayor Michael Brennan said the council will consider a few different ways of re-setting the tipped minimum Wednesday, to make sure that tipped workers will get a raise, while not putting an extra burden on the city’s booming restaurant industry.

“We’re looking for a fair way of making sure that all employees get an increase,” he said.

A city committee had been grappling with the measure for months and the language was written by city lawyers. But Brennan and several councilors said they thought that the measure they adopted in July would leave the tipped minimum unchanged.

Brennan said $10.10 is a figure that he thinks can provide a boost to workers’ wages without leading employers to cut jobs because of the added labor costs.

A competing measure, to raise the minimum to $15 an hour, will be on the ballot this fall and it would increase the base wage for tip earners to $11.25 an hour by 2019.

A poll by the Maine People’s Alliance – which is gathering signatures for a 2016 ballot measure that would raise the statewide minimum to $12 an hour by 2020 – showed broad support for raising the minimum wage in the city.

Continue reading

Labor Day in Portland: Unions push for living wage

From the full article in the Portland Press Herald

Members of the Southern Maine Labor Council lead a Labor Day march Monday in Portland. Joel Page/PPH Staff Photographer

Members of the Southern Maine Labor Council lead a Labor Day march Monday in Portland. Joel Page/PPH Staff Photographer

More than 200 workers, labor leaders and elected officials gathered Labor Day, September 7, in Portland, Maine to celebrate workers and their unions and call for increases in the minimum wage in Portland and across the state.

The annual Portland Labor Day Breakfast, hosted by the Southern Maine Labor Council, AFL-CIO, honored FairPoint workers who went on strike last year with the annual Working Class Heroes Award. The labor council also held a news conference to call for increases in the minimum wage for all workers, including tipped employees.

The FairPoint strike began on Oct. 17, 2014, when nearly 2,000 FairPoint employees in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communication Workers of America walked off their jobs to protest the company’s demands that the unions accept more than $700 million in contract concessions. The strike ended in late February after federal mediators intervened and the striking workers voted to ratify new collective bargaining agreements with the company.

“We spent 131 brutal days on the picket line. It’s very hard to put into words the impact this had on all of us,” Pascucci said. “The biggest thing I took out of all of this is that when we stay strong, we win.” Continue reading

Fight for $15′ is one answer to our ‘profits without prosperity’ tailspin- and will help the middle class

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By Ralph C. Carmona- an adjunct professor at Southern Maine Community College and vice president of the Adjunct Faculty Chapter of the Maine State Employees Association. He can be contacted at: ralphcarmona@gmail.com.

When adjunct professors have to scrap for a living wage, it is time to fight for a secure middle class.

My city, Portland, like the state of Maine and America, faces an economic concentration of inequity that threatens our democracy. The nationwide drive for $15 fast-food wages, however, offers a path that might fundamentally make democracy more equitable and less volatile.

At a recent rally in New York, an African-American fast food worker said that this “Fight for $15” union effort is at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement because it is about human dignity involving the poor and workers of color. It reflects a time when the Rev. Martin Luther King urged that union wages be central to civil rights and the 1964 March on Washington. His last days were spent marching with sanitation workers for better wages.

“I am a human being,” thundered a Puerto Rican immigrant home care worker at a Boston union rally in July. “Be a leader; go for it! Do it together; you are a union. If you don’t do it as friends, who will? My children are human beings. Like Martin Luther King, I gotta dream. And I will fight for that dream of $15 for you because we are all human beings!”

Quality work is not just about impoverished workers. As an adjunct professor at Southern Maine Community College, I see this issue negatively affecting part-time instructors. Continue reading