BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu talked with business owners and others in Bangor about the possibility of a minimum wage increase in the state Tuesday afternoon.
The roundtable meeting happened right at ‘Fork & Spoon’ a local business that would itself be impacted by any minimum wage increase.
The Deputy Secretary was clear in his position, advocating for raising the minimum wage here in Maine and across the country.
"They know what the right thing to do is and what I'm especially pleased by is that almost 600 business are now supporting this initiative and this is entirely consistent with what I see around the country,” Lu said.
Lu’s stance is in lockstep with the Obama administration's stance on the issue nationwide.
Many of those in attendance, including local leaders and those who work at area businesses, were largely in support of the increase.
However, not everyone was so certain. Vice President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Peter Gore, said they were not invited to the meeting. Gore is concerned the measure goes too far—placing an more of a burden on small businesses.
"The chamber along with 17 other statewide business associations in this last legislative session advocated for more reasonable, sustainable minimum wage increase in the state. That's not what this is,” Gore said.
The current minimum wage here in Maine is $7.50. Come November, voters will decide on 'Question 4.'
The initiative would increase the state's minimum wage starting at $9 in 2017. It would then increase by $1 each year until reaching $12 an hour by 2020.
Service workers who rely on tips would also see their hourly wage increase from $3.75 to$5 an hour next year. Their rate will also increase $1 a year until reaching $12 in 2024.
“That's money that maybe a business would prefer to hire another employee with, provide a different set of benefits with, than say put into wages., something different. but they won't have that latitude. It will then be part of a government mandated wage increase,” Gore said.
"When you look at the percentage of workers who get minimum wage it's disproportionately women. It is adults raising children. This is not an increase that's going to go to teenagers. It's going to go to working families here in Maine and around the country,” Lu said.
'Question 4' will be one of a number of issues up for vote come November 8.
Copyright 2016 WLBZ