Talk about workers making a living wage has headed to the streets.
The “Give America A Raise” bus tour began in Bangor Monday morning.
Organizers want to see the federal minimum wage increased.
“I think sometimes we hear about it as an ideological argument rather than what impact does it have on real people’s lives” said Laura Fortman of the US Department of Labor. “And I think that is what we’re trying to do here is make sure people understand folks are struggling, they can’t get by on these low wages.”
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. For a person working 40 hours a week, that’s $290 a week and about 15-thousand dollars a year, before taxes.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the poverty level for a two person family is a little less than 16-thousand dollars.
“Maine’s minimum wage is 25 cents higher than the federal level,” said Representative Mike Michaud. “But it is still back when you look at inflation, back to what it was 40 years ago, so this is the right thing to do and hopefully we’ll be able to get our colleagues at the federal level to pass it.”
The President proposed the increase in his State of the Union address, but a Bangor business isn’t waiting for the red tape to be cut. Miguel’s Mexican Restaurant now pays all of their non-tipped employees at the proposed minimum wage rate of $10.10.
“We did that back on January 31st,” said Sean Garceau the General Manager of Miguel’s. “We felt like it was good for everybody that worked for us, good for the community, good for our employees, wanted to get a jump on it, be the first one to do it, to show everyone that you can survive. Our doors are still open at Miguel’s, it’s not hurting us. It’s helping everyone that works for us, so I think it’s been a great thing for us and all the families that work for us.”
The minimum wage has changed nearly 30 times since it was implemented in 1938 at 25 cents an hour, but it has not increased since June 2009.
“Anytime minimum wage has increased in the past,” said Fortman, “it has not had those dire consequences and in fact as you already heard, there are small business owners who support this.”
The bus left Bangor for Portland, with other stops planned in the 11 state tour along the East Coast before arriving in Washington DC.
To see the chart from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services regarding poverty levels in the United States visit this website http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/14poverty.cfm.
To see how the minimum wage rate has changed since 1938 in the United States you can see a chart with all of the increases at this website from the U.S. Department of Labor http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/chart.htm.
To find out more about the bus tour or to learn more about the proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour visit their website http://www.raiseto1010.com/