March 1, 2013

Letters to the editor: Working people deserve living wage

In the front-page article of Feb. 15, "Maine critics say minimum wage plan has risks," Colleen Callahan, manager of Kamasouptra in Portland, disagrees: "I think (the minimum wage) should be $12 an hour. You can't do anything on minimum wage."

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Colleen Callahan, manager of Kamasouptra, a soup shop in Portland’s Public Market, supports President Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour, and readers agree with her.

2013 File Photo/John Ewing

Bravo, Colleen. You've got it right.

The idea that an adult working full time in Maine -- eight hours a day, 260 days a year, for $7.50 an hour -- earns just $15,600 a year is shocking.

It's outrageous.

It's shameful.  

In this day and age -- when middle-class folks spend that much on a second family car, and celebrities, athletes and CEOs of big companies are "earning" millions -- how can we deny hardworking people, doing what are often tiring jobs, a living wage?  

What is America coming to?

Business owners bemoan having to pay a student looking for his first job any more than $7.50 an hour.  

Fair enough. So why not have a period of training before they start getting paid, or even establish a separate minimum wage for high school students who want to work part-time after school and college students who need work in the summer?

What's wrong with our legislators, both state and federal, that they haven't figured that one out?

Of our Maine lawmakers in Congress who were questioned about the issue in a sidebar to this story, only Chellie Pingree zeroed in on the most important point: "The current minimum is too little to survive on."

Just so.  

Michael Michaud didn't respond, and both Susan Collins and Angus King murmured that businesses might end up hiring fewer people (though economists have found that does not happen).

The minimum wage should be $12 an hour, $10 an hour for students, and if prices have to be raised to cover that, so be it.

Grace Hinrichs


Regarding the article "Maine critics say raising minimum wage has risks" (Feb. 15):

Anyone who cannot afford to pay their employees a living wage should not own a business.

This is about human decency and empathy. Both can be learned.  

I offer a proposal to those who object to raising the minimum wage: An applicant for a business license or loan would be required to live for one year on the minimum wage.

Restrictions would be attached, such as: no loans or help from relatives, no government assistance and no access to prior savings.

Applicants would have to research and log the actual costs of living: rent, utilities, transportation, food, etc., including the exact costs of staples such as bread, milk and all essentials to healthy nutrition.

After completing the year, the applicant would submit a written report.

The costs of doing business include the human factor: the cost of paying the human beings employed. If you're not prepared to pay those costs, you have no business being in business.    

The "slippery slope" and "ripple effect" arguments cited are specious.

And to the man who said of entry-level workers, "They aren't providing value," shame on you. A person willing to put in a day's work, of no value?

Wage earners spend money. The local economy benefits.

It's time to hold our businesses to a higher standard than we have thus far. It's time our senators looked into the reality of living on the minimum wage.

Be creative, business community, and develop business models that honor the dignity and value of workers.

(Continued on page 2)

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