New Year's Day brings minimum wage hike

By Stephen Betts | Jan 02, 2018
Source: File

Minimum-wage workers received their second consecutive annual pay raise Jan. 1.

The state's hourly minimum wage rose to $10 Monday. This is up from $9 in 2017 and $7.50 in 2016.

There will be two more annual $1 increases until the wage reaches $12 an hour on New Year's Day 2020.

The increase is the result of a citizen-initiated referendum approved by Maine voters in November 2016. The ballot question was approved with 55 percent of voters supporting it statewide. The ballot question was supported strongly in Knox County, with every community except Warren supporting the measure. In Rockland, voters supported the minimum-wage increase by a 2,371 to 1,189 vote. In Camden, the measure passed 2,415 to 965, and in Rockport by 1,442 to 879.

The Maine Center for Economic Policy stated in a Dec. 29 news release that about 59,000 Mainers will benefit from the increase. The organization said in the news release that the increase will result in about a $1,349 annual pay raise for each minimum-wage worker and statewide wages will increase $79.6 million in 2018.

"A strong minimum wage protects families from poverty and forms the foundation of a fair, thriving economy," said MECEP policy analyst Sarah Austin. "Raising the minimum wage doesn't just provide greater economic security for Maine workers; It boosts Maine's economy as well. The New Year's increase will provide families with additional means to buy groceries, pay for their children's health care and spend at local businesses."

The impact locally is uncertain.

A wage survey conducted by Rockland Main Street in April 2017 for a hiring fair found that even entry-level jobs -- offered by the 50 participating businesses -- paid more than the minimum wage.

Rockland Main Street Executive Director Gordon Page said he had not heard any feedback from businesses about the increase. "I think you'll find that most Main Street businesses already pay above the new minimum wage for most jobs," Page said.

"The important thing is that businesses in Rockland's downtown and waterfront zones continue to provide year-round jobs to an estimated 2,000 employees, making the city an important draw for workers, which adds to the health and vibrancy of our downtown," he said.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25, which was enacted in July 2009.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.