March 06, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King released the following statement on the Senate deliberations surrounding an increase to the minimum wage:
"Consideration of the Covid relief package in the Senate started with Bernie Sanders’ motion to include his $15 minimum wage proposal in the bill. I voted no along with 7 of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus, which has generated considerable disappointment and anger from callers to my office and commenters on social media. This was not an easy decision and I feel that those who disagree are owed an explanation.
"1. I support the $15 minimum wage and intend to work for its passage later this session, but I have concerns about this bill’s provision which would entirely eliminate the tip credit. Under current law, tipped workers are guaranteed at least the minimum wage (whatever it is at the time); if tips don’t get them there, the employer is obligated to make up the difference. (And if employers cheat on this provision, there should be strict enforcement and substantial penalties). Eliminating this system would be a heavy burden employers (mostly restaurants, which are suffering anyway) and could end up hurting the very tipped employees we want to protect—and who in most cases already make well above the minimum wage. I heard this from both restaurants and the leader of the servers’ organization in Maine before the vote. This is why Maine kept the tipped credit in our law after we raised the minimum wage several years ago.
"2. There was a significant possibility that adding this provision would have lost Democratic votes on the overall package, thereby sinking the entire bill—because we needed every single vote. This was not a risk I was willing to take.
"3. Senator Sanders' amendment required 60 votes to be adopted which was simply not possible, given the current 50-50 partisan split in the Senate. In other words, this was a purely symbolic vote and my vote made zero difference in the final outcome. Given that the amendment had no chance of passage, I could have easily voted yes, despite my reservations, and avoided the flak, but I feel it is more honest to vote my convictions rather than hide behind a “free” vote.
"You still may not agree with me, but I hope you realize that this decision was not taken lightly and was motivated by what I believe is in the best interest of Maine and our workers.
"Oh, and by the way, after dozens of votes and some pretty spirited debate, we passed a great COVID relief bill that will help to end both the pandemic and its tragic economic fallout. Not perfect, but not a bad day’s work after all."