I’m 73 years old and I never thought I’d be working this late in my life — let alone for minimum wage.

When I was in my late 50s, my husband and I thought that we would have another 10 years or so to work and save money for retirement, but that all changed when my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I found myself, for the first time, alone and unable to care for my husband and support myself on just Social Security. Today I’m working part time, doing administrative work for the minimum wage, between visits to see my husband at the Maine Veterans Home.

When you are living paycheck to paycheck, things that seem like little annoyances for many can become big crises, often forcing people to make impossible choices. Do I get the car repaired, or do I fill my prescriptions? Do I pay my heating bill, or put food in my cupboard?

There are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck. Valued workers in our emergency systems, health care systems, educational systems. They’re the hardest working people I know. I voted yes on Question 4 last November to raise the minimum wage because I believe we need fair wages for all Mainers who are working. Every family, every single mom or dad, every senior citizen. Mainers clearly agreed since Question 4 passed overwhelmingly this with 55 percent of the vote.

I was so happy to see this increase pass. For me personally, that increase has already had a positive impact on my life. In January, the minimum wage went from $7.50 and hour to $9 an hour. I began receiving $30 per week more than I had been for my part-time job. For most people $30 is nothing. Pocket change. Coffee money. But for me, it changes my life. that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. That little extra bit of money each paycheck changes major crises into simple incidents.

For example, on one of those icy, sleety, freezing rain days last February, I realized that the rubber had separated and was falling off my windshield wiper blades. A month before this would have been an emergency — a crisis — complete with stress, fear and anxiety. I’d have had to decide if I should go ahead and drive to work using the windshield wipers and take the chance of scratching the windshield with the metal blades, or not go to work, worsening my financial situation, or take a chance and drive without wipers and perhaps cause an accident.


As it happened, because of the increase in the minimum wage, I had $20 in my bank account and was able to avoid the stress, anxiety and nights of sleeplessness that this situation could have caused. There have been many incidents like this since January. Situations that would previously have caused feelings of anxiety and helplessness — and unbelievable stress. But due to that small increase in the minimum wage, my life is easier and I feel more secure.

I know that I’m not the only person who has seen a benefit. According to Mainers for Fair Wages, more than 180,000 Mainers, 1 in 3 workers, will see an increase over time as Question 4 goes into effect. Many of those Mainers are women and some, like me, are seniors who are still working well past retirement.

Despite this increase having such an immediate impact on so many Mainers — and despite winning with an overwhelming majority — some legislators don’t seem to have gotten the message. There are nine bills before the Legislature to do everything from cut wages outright, to stop them from increasing in future years, to cutting raises for tipped workers and younger Mainers.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that legislators in Augusta want to cut the minimum wage increase that was just passed by voters. Why? Why would they want to change something that is not only very popular but is also making a real difference in the lives of so many working Mainers?

Raising the minimum wage has already made a difference in the lives of so many Mainers. Legislators should heed the message that voters sent this November when they overwhelmingly supported Question 4 and make sure all workers get the raise they deserve.

Kathy Rondone lives and works in Augusta.

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