BANGOR, Maine — If Bangor waits for the state or federal government to raise the minimum wage, it could be waiting for quite a while, Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci said this week.
“People’s incomes have been stagnant,” he said. “The minimum wage has been frozen. It will be six years come July, and at the rate the state and federal government are going, it could be eight or nine years before either one of them enact a minimum wage increase.”
Baldacci proposed in February a local ordinance that would incrementally increase the minimum wage in Bangor, beginning with a bump from $7.50 to $8.25 per hour in 2016, advancing to $9 per hour in 2017 and to $9.75 in 2018.
After that, the minimum wage would fluctuate with the consumer price index, a measure of inflation. While some on the City Council have questioned the logistics of a local minimum wage, Baldacci said this week that he remains hopeful the council will approve his proposal.
“I’m hopeful that there will be a statewide referendum, and I’m hopeful that my fellow councilors can see their way to support some sort of minimum wage increase in Bangor,” he said.
Toward that end, Baldacci has scheduled a Town Hall meeting for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 9, in the cafeteria at Abraham Lincoln School on Forest Avenue. Guest speakers at the meeting will include Jim Wellehan, owner of Lamey-Wellehan shoes.
Wellehan, who recently was named one of Mainebiz magazine’s 2015 Business Leaders of the Year, was featured in a President Barack Obama administration video encouraging viewers to sign a petition urging lawmakers to increase the national minimum wage.
Baldacci said the event is open to the public and will feature a question-and-answer session. The meeting is not a City Council-sanctioned event, though.
“The marketing run-up has been that it’s a public forum, but I think it’s more of rally,” said City Councilor Josh Plourde of Baldacci’s planned event.
The council has not formally discussed Baldacci’s proposal since its legal counsel advised during a pre-meeting work session in February that issues of statewide interest such as the minimum wage proposal would typically be discussed by the full council before a public forum.
Baldacci, who was on temporary medical leave, was not present for that discussion. He has not brought the matter up in council meetings since.
Baldacci said the event is not a rally, but it will serve to “jump-start” the conversation on raising the minimum wage.
“This is for people to hear and listen and then ask questions,” he said, adding that he plans to bring the matter up with the City Council after the April 9 meeting.
Baldacci said he did not bring the matter up with the council earlier after returning from medical leave because he chaired the committee discussion of a contentious, nonbinding resolution expressing support for the concept of a national park in the Katahdin region.
“We’re going to have the Town Hall, and then I’ll be talking to the council chair and the other councilors about when we can schedule the City Council doing some sort of public session on it,” he said.
Follow Evan Belanger on Twitter at @evanbelanger.