When the minimum wage was increased to $10 back in January of 2017, many local business owners and workers in the food industry were outraged. Those gathered in Augusta Wednesday stated they are concerned about being able to afford paying their employees, while also making a profit.
"In a little over 12 months, wages in the state have gone up by $2.50 an hour," said Peter Gore, vice president for government relations for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. "That's a lot for a small business to absorb into their business model and make it workable."
People from both sides voiced their opinions on the new bill that aims to protect Maine's economy by slowing the rate at which the state's minimum wage will increase. According to the Maine Small Business Coalition, more than 400,000 Mainers voted yes on the referendum to increase the minimum wage. They also stated, raising the minimum wage to $12 dollars, it stops local business owners from competing for employees.
"We're here to say actually by raising the minimum wage to a reasonable by $12 by 2020, that's two more years for it to go into affect" said Will Ikard, the director of Maine Small Business Coalition. "Which will actually be good for Maine's economy and Maine's businesses as well."
There's a provision in this new bill that would set a different minimum wage for youths under the age of 19.
"It may be their only way for some businesses to survive," said Gore. "By paying less experienced or younger workers, even on a temporary basis, a lower wage."
But others stated, this provision could actually end up causing younger people to leave the state.
"We believe whether you're 16 or 46 or 60, they deserve to be paid the same wage for the same hours of work," said Ikard. "So we're opposed to any sub-minimum wage for workers that could be taken advantage of it."