Local Voices in Maine Speak Out Against Extreme Wage Hike

The debate over whether to raise Maine’s minimum wage by 60 percent (and raise its tipped minimum wage by over 200 percent) is a study in contrasts.

On the one side, advocates for the extreme wage increase have been powered by five- and six-figure checks flooding in from out-of-state donors. We previously reported that at least three-quarters of the monetary contributions for Mainers for Fair Wages come from out of state, and the Bangor Daily News confirmed that at least two-thirds of all donations (including in-kind contributions) are also coming from out of state.

On the other side of the debate are local Maine business owners, who have provided nearly 90 percent of the modest budget for the campaign against an extreme increase in the state’s minimum wage. (The coalition website is available here.) One of these local business owners is Randy Wadleigh, who offered the following warning in a recent Daily News submission:

Many restaurant owners believe they will need to raise menu prices to make ends meet, with some owners estimating an increase between 25 percent to 50 percent. So if you have breakfast and your bill currently comes to $8, you can expect to pay as much as $12 in the future for that same meal. This is not some scare tactic, this is math. …

Mainers on a fixed income have no ability to make up for the increases if Question 4 passes. For a restaurant like mine, the impact will be significant as seniors citizens are our bread and butter. Losing their business on top of higher wages will create the perfect storm for layoffs and other cut backs as we struggle to make ends meet.

Another local business owner who’s concerned about the extreme wage measure is Steve DiMillo. His family’s restaurant, a Portland institution, was founded by his father long before Commercial Street was the popular destination it is today. The proposed wage increase would force DiMillo to give his best-paid employees (tipped servers), who already earn as much as $35 an hour, a pay boost–costing the company over $600k a year that it doesn’t have, and that its customers can’t pay for.

As DiMillo explains in this video, the measure would have a significant negative impact on his business and the people he employs–which is why he, and his employees, are opposed to it.

Earlier this year, EPI released an analysis by Drs. David Macpherson of Trinity University and William Even of Miami University which found that roughly 3,800 jobs would be lost in the state at $12, the majority of which would come from smaller businesses rather than large corporations.