I was in awe Wednesday morning.
Just after 8 a.m., the halls of the Burton M. Cross Building began filling up with hundreds of Maine restaurant workers preparing for public hearings on a flurry of bills that would roll back provisions in Question 4 and reinstate the tip credit. They all wanted a chance to tell their story and push back against the out of touch Maine People’s Alliance and the union interests that threaten their livelihoods.
I’m no regular in Augusta, but I’ve never seen anything like it. The place was packed, and the grassroots organized Restaurant Workers of Maine easily outnumbered the MPA slacktivists 10 to 1. Bangor Daily News reporter Chris Cousins remarked on Twitter “I have never, ever seen the parking lots around the State House as packed as they are today.”
But despite the lopsided support for the Restaurant Workers of Maine in Augusta on Wednesday, the Maine media spewed its own narrative.
The BDN’s headline read “Maine is poised to weaken its minimum wage law. What will Democrats allow?” The Portland Press Herald pushed out “Dozens of restaurant servers weigh in on both sides of ‘tip credit’ issue.” The MPA’s online publication, The Beacon, published “Maine restaurant servers fight to protect minimum wage increase.”
What a farce.
What Maine’s liberal publications didn’t want you to know is that the MPA was heavily outnumbered, and the restaurant workers showed up on their own accord. Some skipped work and others closed their restaurants for the day just to be in Augusta. They prepared their own testimony.
On the other hand, the MPA paid staff to hold signs and pretend to have a clue. “Opponents” of the tip credit were getting their testimony handed to them by the MPA. The Maine Democratic Party put out a Call to Action earlier this week regarding the tip credit that read in part, “You can also sign up to give testimony – even if you only have a few sentences in mind, the Maine People’s Alliance can help you turn your thoughts into testimony.”
One snarky MPA protester told me that the “Maine Center of Economic Policy did a study that shows that removing the tip credit doesn’t change tipping habits, and anything contrary to that is alternative facts.”
I suppose the talking points they were spoon fed didn’t include the fact that MECEP regularly contributes to the MPA’s uncountable number of registered PACs and ballot question committees. Minor detail.
The liberal media didn’t want you to know that the MPA flew in Saru Jayaraman, a labor attorney from California and the co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, who was practically laughed out of the building.
The humble Jayaraman began by telling the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee how many peer reviewed books she has written – a surefire way to appeal to your average Mainer.
Then she regurgitated ridiculous liberal rhetoric that compared tipping to slavery and called the practice outdated and sexist. When she finally finished spouting nonsense, Rep. Larry Lockman pressed Jayaraman on how much she gets paid to testify at public hearings against the tip credit for groups like the MPA.
Jayaraman insisted that the “people of Maine” called for her to testify, and that she wasn’t paid, but eventually admitted she makes $80,000 just to speak at these hearings.
She was gone as quick as she came.
The truth behind what happened on Wednesday is quite simple. Hundreds of Maine restaurant workers and owners flooded capitol grounds to save their careers from the MPA and the Maine AFL-CIO. They shared real stories and concerns about how Question 4 will impact them personally. They took time out of their busy schedules to be there and engaged in the legislative process to reclaim their prosperity.
It was remarkable. The little guy stood up to the schoolyard bully. Real grassroots activists made a mockery of Maine’s “grassroots activists.”
That’s the story the people of Maine deserve to hear.
This post first appeared in The Maine Wire.