To the Editor:
I’m a restaurant owner in Maine, a liberal-minded Democrat, and I voted “Yes” on question 4 (Q4) this year. I only mention my political stance because I am equally disappointed in how both parties are approaching this issue.
I voted “yes” with a heavy heart. I knew that every member of my staff was against the removal of the tip credit. Because my staff and the vast majority of the hundreds of restaurant employees I’ve spoken with on this subject are against the removal of the tip credit, I would have liked to have voted against it as well.
Unfortunately, to vote against the removal of the tip credit would have meant that I also would have been forced to vote against increasing the minimum wage for the entire state of Maine. As an unarguable fact, I submit that I and anyone else who was in my position are proof that an individual could be for one part of Q4 while being against another.
Because of this glaring potential conflict of interest, it was inherently a flawed question.
That being said, it is this reason why there is currently a massive grassroots campaign amongst the employees in the service industry to change the outcome of the referendum. The movement is not an attempt to undermine the system; it is an attempt to show that it was an unfair question to begin with.
I voted “yes” for the greater good. I voted “yes” to help ensure that the standard of living in this state was improved. I knew that it would be better to raise the minimum wage for all and then fight for the rights of the service industry than to deny a wage increase completely to an already poor state.
I didn’t want to get involved too heavily in the debate, which has heated dramatically in recent weeks.
I am aware that to people outside the service industry, it looks like owners are trying to “get away” with paying our servers an astonishing low wage for their hard work. I can’t speak for everyone, but I believe that the restaurants would find ways to survive the increase of wages over the next several years for their servers. What I don’t know is how it will affect our employees. Nobody does.
For that reason, I implore the public and politicians on both sides of the aisle to forget about partisanship for a moment, forget about the lobbyists and special interest groups. Forget about me and the other owners too.
Talk to the employees in the industry; find out what they want and what their concerns are. Realize that they may feel insulted that they were lumped onto Q4 and that everybody seems to be making decisions for them while they remain voiceless.
Bar Harbor Lobster Co.