November 18, 2016

Wage opportunities - By Rep. Mark Bryant the election behind us, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and continue the work of addressing
Maine’s challenges and helping our state live up to the ideal of “the way life should be.” We may have different opinions about what that should look like, but I know there are many things we can agree on. One of them is that everyone who works full-time should earn a decent wage – enough to keep the roof over their heads, pay their bills and put food on the table for their families, and maybe even have a little extra to set aside for retirement.

On Tuesday, Mainers voted to increase the minimum wage. There is work to do to ensure that this new law works for both employers and workers, but I am confident that this is a positive step for the people of Windham and for Maine’s economy overall. It means that people will have more money in their pockets to spend at local businesses and help boost the economy. And it means that people who contribute to the future of our state by going to work every day, from EMTs to firefighters, teachers and health care workers, will earn enough to get by. 

Another critical issue for the economic security of Maine families and the state’s overall economic health is equal pay for women. The equal pay law has been on the books for decades, but the reality is that women continue to earn less than men, about 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. Even when women and men are performing the same job functions, women tend to make less. pay gap begins early in women’s careers and can stay with them for their entire lifetime, even as they steadily rise up the career ladder. That’s why I’ve already submitted a bill for the upcoming session to help combat wage discrimination. The bill would prevent employers from demanding a job applicant’s salary history before making an offer of employment so that women’s compensation will be based on their qualifications. 

The practice of employers asking for previous salary information can perpetuate the pay gap by starting these employees off at lower wages they may have earned in the past. A new employee’s salary should be based on the value they bring to the company, not how much they earned in past jobs.

I believe that everyone who works hard should be given the opportunity to move ahead. Your first job should not dictate what you will be earning for the rest of your life. 

As a grandfather to three girls with a grandson on the way, I am determined to do everything I can to help ensure that each of their futures is full of possibilities and that they can do anything they set out to achieve. I am also determined to put the health of our economy here in Windham and throughout our state first. That means ensuring that all workers earn a living wage for the work they do. Then we will be a few steps closer to “the way life should be.”

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