Friday, April 18, 2014
By Steve Mistler email@example.com
State House Bureau
(Continued from page 1)
"The high rate of unemployment among teenagers, and especially black teenagers, is both a scandal and a serious source of social unrest. Yet it is largely a result of minimum wage laws," Friedman wrote.
Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, said the bill would hurt businesses.
"If we don't have employers, there will be no employees," he said. "If you bring up the bottom, you're going to bring up the people above the bottom. Then what?"
Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said that although some employers are complaining about an abundance of unskilled workers, too many companies don't pay a living wage.
"As much as we have a skills gap in Maine, we have a wage gap," Jackson said.
During the debate, Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, tried to undercut the argument that raising the minimum wage would hurt business. Alfond, who owns Bayside Bowl, a bowling alley on Alder Street in Portland, said employers have a choice to pay more than the minimum wage.
He said the bill's phased-in increase would yield a modest wage increase that could make a "huge difference" to working families.
Maine's median hourly wage for all occupations was $15.63 in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.
Raising the minimum to $9 an hour would yield a gross annual income of $18,720 for an individual working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year.
"We should reject the notion that supporting the working poor is bad for business," Alfond said. "Every day I look at my balance sheet and know that's not true."
Raising the minimum wage appears to have support in national opinion polls. A USA Today/Pew Research Center poll in early March showed that 71 percent of Americans support Obama's plan to raise the minimum wage.
Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:
CORRECTION: This story was updated Wednesday, April 3, 2013 to reflect that the Maine Senate's vote took place on Tuesday, not Thursday.