BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A group called the Maine Small Business coalition gathered at the Fork and Spoon Restaurant in Bangor Tuesday morning to unveil a list of 500 small businesses it says supports a measure to raise the state's minimum wage.
The question that will appear on the November Ballot seeks to raise the minimum wage gradually to $12 an hour by the year 2020 and to raise it to $12 an hour for tipped workers by 2024.
Elisabeth Dean, the brand new owner of Fork and Spoon employs 8 people including 3 full-timers and 5 part-timers. She says she pays more than the state minimum wage now but thinks raising the wage gradually is a good idea to help workers make a living wage and to level the playing field for all businesses who would like to pay their workers more.
"i think it's a good idea because it seems fair," she said.
Dean hosted the Maine Small Business Coalition which unveiled a list of 500 small businesses statewide that it says support the ballot question.
"I think it's really important that the voters see that there's a lot of business owners that think this is a really great thing," explained Will Ikard, the director of the MSBC.
But there are business owners and business groups that have expressed concerns. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce supports an alternative measure that would have gradually raised the minimum wage to $10 an hour instead. That measure failed to make the November ballot.
Lee Speronis, a small business owner and director of Husson University's Hospitality Program it the School of Business believes going from $7.50 to $12 by 2020 is too fast.
"My biggest concern is how much and how fast," he said.
He also supports the tip credit, which allows businesses to pay tipped workers half the minimum wage, if their tips put their income above that wage.
He says eliminating that, as this ballot question seeks to do, would shift costs from the tipping public to the businesses.
"If you have $60 an hour to spend on labor lets make it $4 an hour, easy math, you can afford 15 servers an hour. If it goes to $12 an hour you can afford five. That means service goes down, how do you avoid that? You have kiosk ordering, and then that's loss of jobs," he said.
Supporters dispute those claims. Both sides will be making their case to voters in the months leading up to the November election.