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Rockland to decide on $15/hour wage

Rockland voters will decide whether the city should mandate that larger businesses pay a minimum wage of $15 per hour.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Like voters all across Maine, those in Rockland will see lots of names on the ballot on November 3, but they will also see a question most other voters will not. 

Besides all the candidates on Tuesday’s ballot, Rockland voters will decide whether the city should mandate that larger businesses pay a minimum wage of $15 per hour. 

The referendum question was accepted for the ballot last month by the Rockland City Council, although the Council itself had never debated the minimum wage proposal. The referendum would apply to businesses with more than 25 employees and would increase the wage to $15 over three years. Supporters, including city councilor Nathan David, who sponsored the question, say it’s a way to help lower-income people be able to more easily afford such basic needs as housing and food. 

“What we’re finding is working people, working-class people, are finding it increasingly difficult to live here, being priced out. Raising wages is one of the most immediate ways to do this,” Davis said.

At Curator’s Consignment store on Main Street, co-owner and fellow city councilor Benjamin Dorr agreed.

“Providing upward mobility for the lowest class of workers is great for the community,” Dorr said.

“And we should be looking at this as an opportunity to say we care about people.”

But the Penobscot Bay Chamber of Commerce says raising the wage just for Rockland would create a challenge for some of the city’s businesses. Chamber President Tom Peaco said they have surveyed many local businesses, and found lots of opposition to the referendum, regardless of size.

“Because you will have situations where people are looking to hire somebody and if they aren’t paying that $15 rate and someone can go up the street and make $15 at a larger business, it will certainly impact smaller businesses, too, because they will be forced to pay more to compete.”

Nathan Davis says raising other wages is part of their goal.

Peaco also said the middle of a business slump caused by the COVID pandemic is not a good time to ask businesses to increase their costs.

Emily Seymour, who co-owns the consignment shop with Dorr, agreed it’s a tough time for businesses, but said she and Dorr they increased their own employees’ pay and think other businesses can afford the wage increase.

“The entry wage is not enough and that’s what this bill is trying to do,” she said.

Rockland will vote on the proposal on Tuesday.

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