My floor speech on LD 611 “An Act To Adjust Maine’s Minimum Wage Annually Based on Cost-of-living Changes”

My floor speech on LD 611 “An Act To Adjust Maine’s Minimum Wage Annually Based on Cost-of-living Changes”

Below are the written remarks that I prepared for my floor speech yesterday on LD 611 “An Act To Adjust Maine’s Minimum Wage Annually Based on Cost-of-living Changes.” The House voted (86-58) to pass the bill.

The solutions to our economic problems require that we build from the middle out, not from the top down, and reinvigorate Maine’s middle class. We need to make sure that every employee is getting a livable wage by raising Maine’s minimum wage. We need to make sure that our workers, especially our young people and women, are making enough to live here in our great state.

This isn’t just an economic issue, this is a social justice issue!

The average Mainer making the current minimum wage will only earn around $15,000 a year, which is not a “livable wage”. Fair pay is also a gender issue, as two thirds of minimum wage earners are women, and women are more likely to be supporting their children and families with their jobs than men in this marketplace. In 2010, the typical woman in Maine working full time, year round was paid only 79 cents to every dollar paid to a man working full time, year round– 2 cents narrower than the nationwide wage gap of 77 cents. Women in Maine already have higher rates of economic insecurity than do men in Maine: in 2010, women working full time, year round typically had lower earnings than men ($33,000 compared to $43,029)and were more likely to live in poverty (12.8 percent of Maine women compared to 10.4 percent of men).

Some argue that a higher minimum wage would hurt small businesses and result in job losses. Decades of economic research have proven that increasing the minimum wage leads to increased employment and economic growth.

In 1914 Henry Ford announced that he would pay his workers a wage of $5 a day, which was double what line workers were currently earning. Ford wrote that paying high wages was good for business, since low wages make workers feel doubtful about their economic future. This results in an uncertain marketplace and weak growth. However, when wages are high and steady, Ford asserted, business is more secure because workers earn enough to become good customers. They can afford to buy Model Ts.

Economists call this “the virtuous circle of growth”: well-paid workers generating consumer demand that in turn promotes business expansion and hiring. Just as Ford led the way in assembly lines and manufacturing innovations, he was an innovator in economic policy. It is time we learn from the success he enjoyed a century ago and create our own virtuous circle of growth right here in Maine.

I, like the Representative from Berwick, work two jobs outside of the legislature to make ends meet. I’m blessed that my employer agrees that Maine’s minimum wage is inadequate. But not all of my peers are as lucky. Many young Mainers are making minimum wage and they are not making ends meet. If I could give you one reason why you should support this bill please listen to this one: Please vote for this bill for your children and for your children’s children. Support this bill so that the young people of Maine can afford to live in the state that we love so dearly and want to see prosper.

I urge you to follow my light and take a bold move for the future of our state.

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This post was written by
Matthea “Mattie” Daughtry, a Brunswick native, is the State Representative for the Maine House District 66

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