Cherry-Picking Arguments for $12 in Maine

A $12 minimum wage will cost the state of Maine at least 4,000 jobs, but that hasn’t kept proponents in the state from advancing bad arguments to support it.

Consider a recent release by the labor union-backed National Employment Law Project (NELP), which argues that large businesses rather than small mom-and-pops will have to pay the cost for a $12 minimum wage.

In Maine, it is large retailers—not mom-and-pop businesses—that employ the majority of workers earning less than $12. According to analysis of the latest available data from the Survey of Business Owners, large businesses (defined here as those with 500 or more workers) employ 52.4 percent of all retail workers in the state…

NELP’s decision to ignore food service is a curious one, given that it has previously dedicated entire reports to criticizing restaurants. A closer look at the data reveals why the organization cherry-picked its numbers.

Using the same data as NELP to examine employees of restaurants and hotels in Maine, a very different picture emerges. Fewer than one in five employees in this industry works for a large business with 500 or more employees; by contrast, two-thirds work for very small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. (Even this analysis is incomplete, as it focuses on the entire industry rather than just those employees affected by a $12 minimum wage.)

Maine restaurant

It appears NELP left this data out of its analysis because it didn’t support the “big business” narrative. It’s an unacceptable omission, because small businesses in the accommodations and food service industry stand to be most-impacted by the proposed $12 ballot measure, which takes the radical step of raising by 220 percent the base wage for employees who earn tip income.

Michelle Cory, owner of restaurant Five Fifty-Five in Portland, had a stark warning for voters: “To eliminate this long-standing statute will not only stop investors from opening new table-service restaurants in Maine, but also make the survival of many of Maine’s small, iconic restaurants difficult at best.”