How Did Paul LePage Celebrate Christmas?

Written by SK Ashby

Man who somehow got elected, Maine Governor Paul LePage, did not ring in the holidays in the same manner as you did.

Just before the holiday break, Governor LePage more or less invited employers in his state to openly commit wage theft.

Maine Governor Paul LePage announced that his administration will refuse to enforce a portion of the minimum wage law passed by referendum in November. According to the announcement, the Maine Department of Labor “will not bring enforcement actions against any employer who fails to comply” with an increase from $3.75 to $5 an hour in the base wage paid to workers, like restaurant servers, who also receive tips.

This period of non-enforcement announced by LePage will begin on January 7th when the new minimum wage law takes effect.

The LePage administration has offered a hilariously weak justification for choosing not to enforce the law this month by comparing it to federal wage rules.

“Of course we expect employers to comply with the law,” explained Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette. “However, as we have seen with the federal overtime-exempt rule announced this year, employers did a lot of work to comply, and then the injunction put everything on hold, creating confusion for both workers and employers. We want to avoid a similar situation under state law.”

It's true that conservatives found a federal judge in Texas that was happy to side with them against President Obama's overtime rule (surprise!), but that is in no way comparable to a ballot initiated voted on by the residents of Maine. The people of Maine voted in favor of higher wages; a government executive did not mandate it. Moreover, no legal challenges have been filed or even hinted.

I can't say if LePage's office is dumb enough to actually believe that's an appropriate comparison, but all available evidence suggests they are.

Although the LePage administration will not enforce the law this month, the law will go into effect and employees can take private legal action against employers who do not pay them what they're owed.

Naturally, state Democrats blasted LePage for his decision.

Democratic Senate leader Troy Jackson said the announcement means the governor is “refusing to his job, which is to enforce the state’s laws — not just the laws he likes.”

“The Department of Labor has a responsibility to protect workers’ rights. That includes the right to receive the full wage they are owed,” said Jackson. “To tell employers they won’t bring charges against companies that don’t follow the law is a gross abdication of the department’s responsibility to Maine workers.”