Local business owners debate minimum wage increase

6:49 PM, Mar 5, 2014   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Maine's minimum wage is $7.50 an hour and the majority of the state's workforce has worked one or more of these jobs along the way.

"I worked 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.  and then 12 p.m. - 8 p.m., seven days a week," recalled Kyle Gould of Portland. "It was rough. I never had free time."

Gould said President Obama's proposed increase to $10.10 would make a significant change to his bottom line.

"I would love $10.10 an hour! it would mean I could only work one job and enjoy my life," he said.

But for employers, it's more complicated. Rick Snow, the owner of Maine Indoor Karting in Scarborough, ME, said he starts part-timers, most of whom are teens and college students, at $8 an hour. He said in this economy, with the price of gas and propane, that is all he can afford to pay. 

"It's a very tight margin as to whether we make a profit or not. If the raise is mandated, it would throw us in the red automatically," said Snow.

He said increasing the minimum wage would throw his entire pay scale out of whack. 

"If you've got a starting employee making $10.10 and you've had someone already here 5 years making that, then you've got to bump him to $12.50 or $13:50!" he said.

But at Longfellow Books in Portland, co-owner Chris Bowe said he starts his workers at $10 an hour and he believes he gets more from his workers that way. 

"Turnover in retail is terrible. But at my store they stay five to seven years because they're treated like adults," Bowe said.

And like President Obama, Bowe said he thinks putting a few more dollars in workers' pockets is that best way to get the cash registers ringing.

"They'll stimulate the economy by buying sneakers and maybe they can take the kids to a movie," he said.

While an increase in minimum wage would put more Mainers over the poverty line, some business leaders say it doesn't go far enough. They say to really move the economy forward, the state needs to help them create and sustain jobs that pay twice that.

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