Minimum-wage workers in Maine have not received a raise since 2009, when the state’s wage floor increased a mere 25 cents above the federal rate. That’s seven years of wage stagnation, all the while the cost of living has gone up. But this could change if voters approve statewide Question 4 this November, which would raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2020, and gradually eliminate the subminimum tipped wage.

 Raising the minimum wage would benefit Maine’s working families. Maine’s minimum wage of $7.50 adds up to just $15,600 for full-time, year-round work, assuming workers do not take a single day off – not for vacation, to recover from a cold or even to attend a parent-teacher conference.

Raising the minimum wage to $12 could bring significant relief to struggling families. Over 159,000 workers would see their annual incomes rise by $3,560 on average. Over 52,000 children whose parents earn less than $12 per hour would also benefit.

Raising the minimum wage would benefit more adults than teens. Opponents point to teens as the typical minimum-wage workers. But the truth is that the vast majority (90.3 percent) of workers who would benefit from a minimum-wage increase are 20 years or older, and 1 in 5 workers are over the age of 55.

Opponents also claim that increasing the minimum wage will cause teen unemployment to skyrocket, but the most credible research shows that higher wage floors do not affect teen employment. Rather, teen unemployment rates are the result of variables not related to the minimum wage.

Raising the minimum wage for tipped workers is an issue of basic fairness. Current law allows employers to pay tipped workers like waiters and waitresses as little as $3.75 per hour, expecting customers to pay the rest in tips. But because tips vary so dramatically from shift to shift, most tipped workers make just $8.72 an hour, including tips, and cannot rely on gratuities for a reliable income.

Raising the minimum wage would level the playing field for small businesses. Data shows that small employers in the retail sector pay significantly higher hourly wages than large employers: on average, $12.72 and $10.07, respectively. This harms not only affected workers, but also small businesses, which are undercut by their larger competitors.

As Mary Allen Lindemann, co-owner of Coffee by Design with locations in Portland and Freeport, explained recently: “Local businesses in Maine already pay higher wages, and raising the wage floor would allow them to make even greater investments in their employees without having to worry about losing business to out-of-state competitors who are more likely to pay poverty wages.” This is why 500 other small-business owners throughout the state have endorsed Question 4.

Nationally, businesses of all sizes overwhelmingly support raising the minimum wage. According to a leaked poll conducted by a consultant for state chambers of commerce, 80 percent of business owners and executives support raising the minimum wage in their states, recognizing the importance of investing in their workforce. Opposition to the minimum wage does not primarily come from businesses, but from industry lobbyists that often represent the interests of large corporations.

Raising the minimum wage is a win-win for Maine, despite claims to the contrary by the Maine Heritage Policy Center – a free-market think tank with ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council and other groups opposed to worker rights. Opponents argue that raising the minimum wage will result in economic disaster, and accuse minimum-wage advocates of “trying to pull the wool over the eyes” of voters.

But if anyone is trying to fool voters, it is MHPC and other cheerleaders for big business interests. These organizations are so out of touch with the priorities of Mainers that they have positioned themselves to the right of state Republicans, who earlier this year declared low wages a public emergency.

The fact is that more adults are working low-wage jobs and earning poverty wages – and raising the minimum wage is a proven means of boosting their incomes. The fact is also that the most rigorous research on the minimum wage shows little effect on jobs, and that the benefits of raising the wage floor vastly outweigh any possible adverse effects.

That’s why 58 jurisdictions – including neighboring Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont – have raised their minimum wage over the past three years, and they are finding that higher wages go hand in hand with strong economic growth.

Will Maine partake in these gains, too? This November, it will be up to the voters to decide.