Minimum wage workers in Maine—mostly women—struggle to support themselves and their families on earnings of just $7.50 per hour. A citizens’ initiative proposed for the November 2016 ballot (Question 4) would increase the state minimum wage to $12.00 per hour by 2020, then index it to rise along with the cost of living. The initiative would also gradually increase the separate minimum cash wage for tipped workers—which is just $3.75 per hour—so that it matches the minimum wage for all other workers by 2024, thereafter providing the same minimum wage to tipped and non-tipped workers alike. Establishing one fair minimum wage is a key step toward fair pay for Maine women.
Who Are Maine’s Low-Wage Workers?
- Women. Women are about six in ten minimum wage workers and close to eight in ten tipped workers in Maine. Three in ten working women in Maine would get a raise if the minimum wage rose to $12.00 per hour by 2020.
- Adults. Ninety percent of the workers who would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $12.00 per hour are adults. Two-thirds of Maine workers who would get a raise under the $12.00 initiative are at least 25 years old, and four in ten are 40 or older.
- Parents. Of the workers who would benefit from raising Maine’s minimum wage to $12.00 per hour, one-quarter have children. More than one in three working parents in Maine who are supporting children on their own would get a raise under the $12.00 initiative.
Minimum wage workers and tipped workers in Maine need a raise.
- A woman working full time at Maine’s minimum wage earns just $15,000 annually, more than $4,000 below the federal poverty line for a mother with two children.
- At $3.75 per hour, Maine’s minimum cash wage for tipped workers amounts to just $7,500 a year for full-time work, providing little income to rely on when fluctuating tips make it difficult to cover regular expenses like rent and groceries. Although employers are obligated to ensure that their tipped employees receive at least the regular minimum wage—making up the difference when tips fall short—many fail to do so.
- About eight in ten tipped workers in Maine are women. Close to 19 percent of Maine’s female tipped workers live in poverty, more than double the rate for working women overall. Women who have to rely on variable tips at the whim of customers for the bulk of their income, rather than being able to depend on set wages from their employer, are also more vulnerable to sexual harassment on the job.
Raising the minimum wage would boost wages for thousands of working women in Maine, helping them support themselves and their families.
- The Maine Center for Economic Policy estimates that if the minimum wage rises to $12.00 per hour by 2020, 181,000 Maine workers will get a raise—by $3,485 a year, on average. Of the total affected workers, a majority (93,000) are women.
- Of the workers who would get a raise, 45,000 are parents, including 17,000 single parents—representing more than one-third of all working parents in Maine who are supporting children on their own. In Maine, 70 percent of single parents are women.
- Nearly one-quarter of all children in Maine live with at least one parent who would get a raise.
Raising the minimum wage would reduce poverty and strengthen Maine’s economy.
- Raising Maine’s minimum wage to $12.00 per hour would boost annual full-time earnings for a minimum wage worker to $24,000 by 2020, enough to lift a family of three above the poverty line.
- Providing the same minimum wage for the predominantly female tipped workforce would ensure a more stable and adequate base income for those workers, who currently earn an average of just $8.72 per hour including tips. In states where employers have to pay their tipped workers the regular minimum wage before tips, the average poverty rate for women tipped workers is 33 percent lower—and the average gender wage gap is 14 percent smaller—than in states with a $2.13 tipped minimum cash wage. These gains have not come at the expense of business; the states with one minimum wage for all workers have experienced higher restaurant sales per capita and greater growth in restaurant industry jobs than the states with lower minimum wages for tipped workers.
- Raising the minimum wage can benefit communities and the broader economy as workers spend their higher earnings at local businesses. Higher wages can also benefit employers by reducing turnover and increasing worker effort.