The League of Young Voters


Fair Wages, and LD 1697
December 13, 2007, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

We don’t just have people in the streets–we have people in the post office too! (Mailing letters, that is!)

[An sample of Justin Alfond’s letter to the committee regarding LD 1697, for Fair Wages]

 

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Dear Chairman Strimling, ChairmanTuttle and members of the Labor Committee,

Thank you for the chance to speak on LD 1697, “An Act to Ensure Fair Wages.” The League of Young Voters not only urges the committee to support LD 1697 as written, but to also hopes to ensure that the so-called “Fair Labor Standards Act’s Youth Minimum Wage Program” is not implemented.

The League of Young Voters reaches thousands of high school, college, and post-college youth (ages 17-35) every day of the year. The League’s goals are to make community issues and politics relevant, positive and fun for our peers.

However, engaging Maine’s youth is very challenging when, regardless of their educational levels, most work more than one job. And it is no secret why. Wages have not kept up with inflation. As a result, youth and many other working Mainers struggle to just meet their basic needs, including health care, rent/utilities, college loans, transportation payments and food.

Today you have a great chance to change the course of Maine workers for the better!

LD 1697 provides a solution to youth and Maine’s workers income/expense dilemma by establishing an $8.40 minimum wage. But more importantly, when LD 1697 passes, the minimum wage is finally tied to inflation so that Maine workers can meet their basic needs today, next year and twenty years from now!

It is also interesting to note that as progressive as LD 1697 is, current data from the Maine Center for Economic Policy illustrates that $8.40 does not meet the living wage estimate for a single person in any of our sixteen counties.

The second part of my written testimony is to urge the Labor Committee to not accept the amendment called “Fair Labor Standards Act’s Youth Minimum Wage Program.” Creating a bifurcated minimum wage rate for youth under 20 that work fewer then 90 consecutive days is a the wrong approach.

The League wants the Labor committee to note that we are not trained economists or sociologists. Yet, even without both of these pedigrees we are outraged by this program. Somehow, businesses are supporting a program stating that anyone under the age of 20 should be paid less if they work fewer then 90 consecutive days. If I am following the program correctly, then somehow if people under the age of 20 are less of an added value to an employer. Or maybe because they are only working part-time, they are somehow unequal to their full-time co-workers? This program is faulty because businesses need these young workers.

Most of these young part-time workers fill the critical workforce when Maine’s tourism industry is in full gear. Maine’s tourism industry needs these young workers, and LD 1697’s wage increase is not going to shut down Maine’s tourism sector. Instead, the added wages will give an incentive for current employees to work more effectively.

I understand that businesses have a strong personal interest in paying these young part-time employees less. Yet, I would like businesses promoting this program to think about two important facts. First, passing on price increases to tourists is not going to alter Maine’s brand as Vacationland. Secondly, and more importantly, businesses need to look around. Maine is one of the oldest states in the country; we need these young part-time workers to educate themselves and stay in the state to become productive workers. These businesses’ short-term gains are sending the wrong messages to Maine’s hard working workforce.

In closing, I urge the Labor committee to pass LD 1697 and to kill the amendment that will turn back the clock in for Maine’s working youth!

 

Justin Alfond

Maine State Director

League of Young Voters

www.theleague.com/me

(207)772-3207

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