ME Minimum Wage Now 60 Cents Higher Than Last Year
Monday, January 3, 2022
Mainers working for minimum wage will see a modest increase in their paychecks starting this month, as inflation has driven it to $12.75 an hour.
Maine ties its minimum wage to the consumer price index published by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, after a 2016 ballot referendum called on the state to increase the wage from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $12 by 2020, and then based on cost of living thereafter.
Andy O'Brien, communications director for the Maine AFL-CIO, said it's so important that wages rise with inflation.
"For too long here in Maine, a lot of people have had to survive on poverty wages," said O'Brien. "And the cost of housing is skyrocketing, health care is going up, child care, groceries, just all kinds of basic necessities."
He added that $12.75 an hour is still not enough for many Mainers, but it is important to make progress.
Four other New England states also are hiking their minimum wages - Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island - while New Hampshire remains the only one that still keeps to the federal minimum of $7.25.
Thousands of workers across the nation went on strike in 2021, and companies saw record numbers of union drives and elections. O'Brien said this type of collective action is what's needed to make sure folks are able to take home a living wage.
"If you look at real wages compared to the 1960s, wages have largely stagnated," said O'Brien. "And when you look at the cost of housing back in the '70s or '60s, it's just incomparable. And so this is a tremendous challenge."
In Maine, workers at Maine Med - the state's largest hospital, the Portland Art Museum, and record store chain Bull Moose all formed unions. And staff at Bates College have launched a union drive. O'Brien said he hopes to see this trend continue beyond the COVID pandemic.
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