Maine is one step closer to restoring the tip credit

My faith in government was restored Wednesday when the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee (LCRED) voted 11-2 in favor of LD 673, a bill that would reinstate the tip credit in Maine.

After a marathon public hearing dominated by restaurant workers and a month of deliberation, the LCRED committee came to a bipartisan agreement to overturn the provision in Question 4 that abolished the tip credit in Maine last November. The agreement includes requiring restaurant owners implement a number protections for their tipped workers, however many of the supplemental conditions already exist under state and federal laws.

Additionally, Rep. Stacy Guerin, R-Glenburn, was able to attach an emergency preamble to the bill, meaning if LD 673 passes in both the House and the Senate, it would become law in time for the summer service boom.

While the fight is not over, this is a huge victory for the Restaurant Workers of Maine, a legitimate grassroots, self-organized coalition that is standing up to the big money labor interests of the Maine AFL-CIO and the Maine People’s Alliance (MPA).

Many in state government have never seen such structure and organization from a group of concerned citizens, and their hard work is translating into results for the thousands of restaurant workers and owners across the state.

“It was one of the longest hearings in legislative history,” Guerin said of public hearing for LD 673 and other tip credit bills that took place in early April. “It was really an astounding showing of Maine workers saying, ‘Please give us back our tip credit.’”

Thankfully, that’s exactly what the LCRED committee did yesterday. However, liberals and left-leaning media outlets are still unwilling to give credit where it’s due (I’m punny).

Amy Halsted, the campaign manager for Mainers for Fair Wages, associate director of the Maine People’s Alliance and an officer for nearly every PAC and ballot question committee the MPA controls, was sour after LD 673 passed resoundingly out of LCRED.

“The Republican-led attempts to undermine every aspect of this law are deeply disappointing, as is the fact that some Democrats joined in voting to cut wages for tipped workers,” Halsted told the Portland Press Herald. She also applauded two Democrats, Shenna Bellows and Michael Sylvester, for “standing up to the corporate lobby and standing strong to protect every part of Maine’s minimum wage law.”

The corporate lobby? Give me a break, Halsted. You work for the MPA on behalf of the AFL-CIO. The same MPA that operates the Maine Beacon, an online media arm that published a list of Democratic legislators who sponsored bills to reinstate the tip credit, a move intended to pressure these legislators to hold the union line.

It didn’t work, however, and when legislative Democrats did their job and acted on behalf of their constituents, the MPA sent their sweatpants army to the State House to spread misinformation.

Then there’s the Bangor Daily News (BDN), who have broadly misrepresented the facts surrounding the tip credit issue and continue to downplay the significance of the Restaurant Workers of Maine (and they’re paying for it, too).

Their news story published Wednesday regarding LD 673’s passage out of committee was titled, “Push to restore lower minimum wage for Maine tipped workers gains momentum.”

Just in case anyone at the BDN cares to know, there is no lower minimum wage, or “subminimum wage” as they incorrectly refer to it as, for tipped workers. Tipped workers have a smaller hourly base wage, however if they do not receive the minimum wage through tips, their employer must compensate them accordingly. Therefore, tipped workers have the same minimum wage as everybody. This is a classic example of the BDN’s pandering to the far left.

(Note: The BDN has since revised its original title, as well as other inaccuracies in their original reporting regarding Gov. LePage’s stance on the tip credit issue and their use of the term “subminimum wage”).

Restaurants need this flexibility to stay above water, and do not appreciate the treatment they’ve received from the BDN.

“As a small business owner, employer and community member, it’s discouraging to see the glaring inaccuracies and many mistruths in the BDN’s reporting, specifically regarding the tip credit,” Susan Price Stephenson, co-organizer of the Restaurant Workers of Maine, told The Maine Wire. “They continuously use improper terms and biased language, as well as opinion-based journalism. It’s time for newspapers to stop being political platforms and start reporting the news.”

I couldn’t agree more, Susan.

Liberals may continue pandering to union interests and spreading misinformation, but the Restaurant Workers of Maine group is a powerful locomotive that will not stop tearing through partisanship in Augusta until the tip credit is restored.

I have a feeling that day is rapidly approaching.

 

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.