Letter to the editor: Tom Peaco

No on Rockland minimum wage referendum question

Tue, 10/27/2020 - 1:30pm

Following feedback from dozens of Rockland businesses and organizations regarding the minimum wage referendum currently on the Rockland ballot, the Board of Directors of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce has issued the following statement.

As an association of hundreds of local businesses and organizations employing thousands of local residents, the Chamber and its members fully recognize the challenges of living affordably in Rockland, and the need to find workable solutions to this issue.  We also share a common desire to create an economic environment that benefits employers and employees.  However, we feel compelled to speak out on behalf of the many businesses and organizations in Rockland who are also struggling to survive during this global pandemic, and we are troubled by the likely impacts of passing a local minimum wage ordinance at this time. 

  • Rockland businesses and organizations are facing the staggering economic effects of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, along with sharply rising property taxes and the upcoming implementation of Maine’s Earned Paid Leave Law.  This simply is not the time to add another cost for local businesses already on the brink of survival. 


  • We are disappointed that this issue was added to the Rockland ballot just days before ballots were to be printed following very limited discussion at one Rockland City Council meeting, leaving no time for the robust discussion that this topic deserves. The issue of livable wage is important, but a hastily worded municipal referendum is not the way to address it.   


  • While this ordinance would directly apply to businesses with over 25 employees, it’s clear that the impact would be felt by all employers, as they will be forced to compete with neighboring businesses who would be paying higher wages.  Feedback to the Chamber was largely from these smaller businesses who are concerned about their ability to survive. 


  • Common themes heard from businesses speaking to Chamber representatives include: 


    • Significant concern about the timing of this proposal, given the many other financial hardships facing businesses right now and the lack of notice for this being placed in front of voters. 


    • Concern for the reputation of Rockland as a place to do business, or to start or move a business.  Businesses will be less likely to consider Rockland as a place to remain and grow, or to relocate a business. 


    • The people of Maine have already enacted a plan to move Maine’s minimum wage to one of the highest in the country, and to keep it there with annual increases.  Enacting a local minimum wage puts Rockland businesses at a disadvantage and will likely lead to less available jobs in Rockland as those businesses go elsewhere. 


Given the reasons cited above and the significant feedback received on this issue, our board urges Rockland voters to vote “No” on the Rockland minimum wage referendum question.   

Tom Peaco is executive director of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce