Children's Coalition Backs Better Wage Question
PORTLAND, Maine - A coalition of children's advocates, including Maine Children's Alliance, Every Child Matters, and the Central Maine YWCA, is speaking out in favor of raising the state's minimum wage, which voters will consider on the November ballot.
The coalition is also presenting the issue as one of gender pay equity. Women, they say, are over-represented in the minimum wage workforce.
"As approximately 60 percent of minimum wage workers in Maine," says Kathy Durgin-Leighton who directs Central Maine YWCA, "three out of ten Maine women would see a raise with this increase in hourly pay. Creating a fair wage is undoubtedly an issue of gender equity."
At a recent press conference, Melissa Stevens of Lewiston told the audience that when her children were very young, she was in an abusive relationship. "But I knew that if I left, with the skills and opportunities that I had, I wouldn't be able to make ends meet. So that by leaving abuse, I was throwing them into poverty." says Stevens.
Stevens did become a single mother, but she says she struggled to make ends meet in a patchwork of jobs. Working as a waitress, she says, a couple once tipped her by leaving a bible verse at the table. "My landlord doesn't accept bible verses." says Stevens, "Nor does the electric company or the grocery store. Parents can't survive on tips, we need one fair wage."
Opponents of the minimum wage ballot measure argue that its passage would actually reduce wages for tipped workers, such as waiters and other restaurant staff, and they say businesses may hire fewer employees in order to trim expenses to meet the new wage demand.
The measure would raise the state's minimum wage in increments, from the current $7.50 an hour, to $12.00 per hour by 2020.