The MPA is in denial about the tip credit

The Maine People’s Alliance (MPA) is looking more like a gaggle of used car salesmen these days.

After grassroots activists established the Restaurant Workers of Maine group to push back against the removal of Maine’s tip credit, MPA activists have been on the defensive, attempting to sell their referendum question in the media to Mainers already experiencing buyer’s remorse.

The tip credit is being phased out as a result of Question 4’s passage last November, which incrementally increases Maine’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 and indexes future wage hikes with inflation. Included in the referendum was a provision that also removes the tip credit by 2024, affecting thousands employed in Maine’s food service industry. Additionally, Question 4 harms business owners, who the MPA assumes have the financial means to swallow increased labor costs.

But the MPA is wrong. I know it, they know it and the people of Maine know it. They’re the only ones in denial about it, however.

Countless restaurant owners and their employees have spoken out against the tip credit changes since the election because Question 4 makes locally owned businesses unprofitable and hurts worker’s wages.

All the MPA has to defend its referendum is biased studies and emotionally charged rhetoric. But the Restaurant Workers of Maine are actually out on the frontlines, and their stories exemplify the real implications of Question 4.

Michael Hanson, an experienced waiter who works part-time at Sea Dog Brewing in South Portland, has shared his story publicly for Maine citizens and lawmakers to understand the reality of removing Maine’s tip credit.

Hanson provided years of tax documents to show that he has averaged approximately $44,000 a year in wages over the last six years at Sea Dog Brewing, working around 35 hours a week (about $24 an hour). Once Question 4 is fully implemented, Hanson’s wage will be $12 an hour without tips, averaging just $18,720 a year.

Even if Hanson made another $18,720 in tips, he still wouldn’t be making what he made before the tip credit was removed. When labor costs are fully increased by 2024 and menu prices adjust accordingly, tipping would nearly non-existent, given these locally-owned restaurants are still operating.

Wendyll Caisse, owner of Buck’s Naked BBQ in Freeport and Windham, also described the negative effects Question 4 has on her livelihood. After crunching the numbers, Caisse expects she will have to increase menu prices by 4 percent annually through 2024 to make up for increased labor costs.

Caisse, uncertain if patrons will be amenable to paying $23 for a pulled pork sandwich in a few years, expects her restaurant and other family-owned establishments to be unprofitable once Question 4 is fully implemented.

Hanson and Caisse aren’t the only critics. Since the group formed days after the Nov. 8 election, the Restaurant Workers of Maine have built their grassroots coalition up to 5,000 and counting.

And despite the MPA’S childish attempt to stop lawmakers from defecting, even Democrats in Augusta have come to their wits on the tip credit issue, making the MPA and other radical left-wing organizations the state’s lone defenders of Question 4’s full effects.

Additionally, according to Hanson, the MPA has deleted comments and banned users from their media platforms in effort to silence real grassroots organizers in Maine. They haven’t answered or returned calls and emails from concerned Mainers and continue to peddle rigmarole about the tip credit in the media.

Going to such lengths in defending the tip credit provision that most Mainers outright oppose is a telling sign that the MPA is on the wrong side of this issue.

I’ll give them a little credit though – they were organized just well enough to get Question 4 passed in November, despite its destructive contents.

However, this has convinced the MPA has been a gaggle of used car salesmen since the beginning.

May the real grassroots organizers of Maine prevail.

This post first appeared in The Maine Wire.

Jacob Posik

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the editor of The Maine Wire, an online news and opinion service offered by the Maine Heritage Policy Center. His blog covers local and national political topics.