Back in November, Maine voters passed a referendum that would increase base wages for tipped workers to $5 per hour. Now, Republican Governor Paul LePage has ordered the state Department of Labor not to enforce the new law. Yes, actually:
Maine’s new minimum wage law, which would bump the base pay for bartenders and restaurant servers, is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 7, but state officials won’t enforce parts of the law for more than three weeks.
[…] Governor Paul LePage, citing potential legislative action, released a statement Thursday saying that Maine’s labor department will not enforce the tip credit change and minimum tipped-worker salary requirements in the law until Jan. 31. That means no fines for employers in violation of the new law.
This is a tremendous slap in the face not only for fair wage advocates, but also for Maine voters, who approved the referendum by double-digit margins:
“Governor LePage has now gone beyond ignoring the will of Maine voters and is flat-out encouraging employers to commit wage theft,” said Mainers for Fair Wages campaign manager Amy Halsted, who led the effort to pass the minimum wage increase. “Refusing to enforce the minimum wage law, and especially the increase in the base wage for tipped workers from $3.75 to $5 an hour, is a slap in the face to tens of thousands of Mainers who are working hard and too often struggling to afford heat, food and medicine.”
The $5-per-hour bump for tipped workers is part of a broader initiative that would raise the state-mandated minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020. Maine is one of four states to pass a law this November increasing the minimum wage:
Advocates for a higher minimum wage filed more than 76,400 petition signatures in January to put the measure on the November ballot. Backed by the Maine People’s Alliance, the Maine AFL-CIO and the Maine Small Business Coalition, it would raise the state’s hourly minimum wage to $9 in 2017, followed by annual $1 increases until 2020. Subsequent increases would be indexed to inflation.
LePage’s decision to disregard democratic outcomes is not entirely inconsistent with his broader governing philosophy. Back in October, he explained what he hoped to see from a potential Trump presidency: “We need Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power.”