As reported in “Wage Wars 101” (7/16, p.10), Maine is experiencing a summer filled with campaigns to raise the minimum wage. With Maine’s minimum at only $7.50 an hour, 25 cents above the federal rate, the efforts to increase workers’ base wage are clearly fighting on behalf of the laborers in our state. Yet I propose these campaigns do not just promote workers’ rights, but also strive towards gender equality.
At this point, it is practically common knowledge that there is a gendered wage gap in the United States. Nationally, women, working full time and year-round, are paid an average of 78 cents on the dollar of what their male counterparts are paid.
The gender gap becomes even more heightened when racial identities are added into the equation. Working full time and year round, the average African American woman receives only 64 cents for every dollar paid to her white, non-Hispanic male counterpart. Women who self-identify as “Hispanic” typically make just 56 cents on the dollar of the average white, non-Hispanic male. Across the country, women are being paid less money than men, with women of color finding themselves particularly disadvantaged.
In our own state of Maine, the average median income for women is $36,000, about 83.7 percent of the median income of male Mainers. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, unless lawmakers take action, the wage gap will persist in Maine until 2057.
Raising the minimum wage can help close the gender gap as women, and particularly women of color, disproportionately constitute minimum wage earners. Nationally, women represent around two-thirds of all workers paid minimum wage or less. Moreover, while women of color make up 16 percent of the total workforce, they represent 23 percent of minimum wage earners.
In fact, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers has directly linked increasing the base wage to closing the gender gap. The Council estimates that to raise the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour, and then index it to inflation, could narrow the gendered wage gap by approximately 5 percent.
With this in mind, I hope that the city of Portland has galvanized a movement in raising its base wage to $10.10. I urge my fellow Mainers to fight for gender equality by supporting the campaigns to raise the minimum wage.
George Orwell’s classic finds resonance in Maine’s government
Animal Farm, 2015 Edition:
After ceremoniously bursting from his pen, Napoleon reigns supreme over The Maine Manor. Despite his inability to offer a single sentence without torturing all heretofore agreed-upon grammatical rules, Napoleon blusters his way through life. He is convinced that his way is the only way, and accuses the poor, the educated, the press, those who dare to disagree with him and most especially, those who live in Southern Maine Manor, of ruining all that is good and right in the world.
Phantom Snowballs parade through Napoleon's head, torturing him mercilessly. He pens nonsensical notes to those he finds most offensive, hastily sending the writings forth without review by loyal Pinkeye. Yet even Napoleon's written musings fail to quell his rage so he convenes press conferences where he bloviates at length.
Erroneously believing himself to be both clever and intelligent, he offers his message punctuated by props, including his favorite squeaky toy, Squealer. Yet in his state of constant rage, he neglects his actual obligations to the Manor and forgets to sign the Seven Commandments. Not one to be deterred by his own ineptitude, Napoleon contends that he can sign the Commandments whenever he pleases and requests confirmation of his position from a wise panel including Benjamin, Clover and Muriel.
The entire Manor, held captive by the porcine ruler's wrath, awaits the decision, bracing itself for what will surely be a fit of epic proportions should the holding not meet his expectations. Meanwhile, Boxer and his kin can only hope to avoid the knacker, as Maine Manor spirals into absurdity under Napoleon's despotic rule.