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Union Members Protest Effort to Reinstate Lower Wage for Tipped Workers

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine union workers and their advocates vowed to defend a citizen-initiated law that raised the minimum wage during a gathering at the State House Thursday.

Ali Monceaux, a restaurant server, said lawmakers should defeat any effort to reinstate a lower tipped wage for workers get tips.

"Tipped workers were included in Question 4 and everyone means everyone. And that question passed," Monceaux said. "We cannot exclude some people and so many workers in Maine, a majority of them women."

Question 4 raised the minimum wage and eventually elminates the tipped wage, which allows employers to pay workers who get tips a lower minimum wage.

There are several bills in the Legislature to reinstate the tipped wage. Some of those proposals are supported by Democrats, which has irked organized labor groups and other progressive organizations that financed Question 4 last year.

The tipped wage used to be $3.75 an hour when the regular minimum wage was $7.25. The tipped wage is now $5 an hour, thanks to the passage of Question 4, and it’s supposed to increase until it’s equal to the regular minimum wage in seven years, by then at least $12 an hour.

INTRO: Maine union workers and their advocates gathered at the State House Thursday to highlight their legislative priorities for the session. Among the initiatives is beating back yet another slate of so-called right-to-work bills.

Josh Hartford, a railroad mechanic PanAm, said bills that allow workers to avoid paying union dues are unfair because unions are required to represent all workers in contract negotiations.

.{"It's just another attempt by corporate interests to end unions in order to tip the balance even more in their favor at the expense of hard working people," Hartford said.}

Previous right-to-work bills have been defeated at the State House over the past six years. The latest proposals are not expected fare much better given that Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, are opposed to right-to-work legislation.

The AFL-CIO says it also hopes to beat back an effort to reinstate the tipped minimum wage for workers who receive tips. Last year voters approved Question 4, which raised the minimum wage and eventually eliminates the tipped wage.

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