“Our greatest weapon in this fight is solidarity,” said the senator from Vermont. “The people of Portland, Maine have an incredible opportunity this Tuesday to continue our movement’s collective struggle by voting ‘Yes’ on Question D.”
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has endorsed what he calls an “important” citizen-initiated referendum in nearby Portland, Maine, telling supporters in an email Thursday that the city “has the potential to pass the most progressive, inclusive minimum wage initiative in the history of the United States.”
“A ‘Yes’ on Question D would raise the minimum wage for all workers to a living wage of $18 an hour—including tipped workers, workers with disabilities, youth, gig workers, and incarcerated workers,” Sanders wrote. “As you might expect, opposition from the billionaire class and the ultra-wealthy to Question D has been fierce.”
“Lobbyists like the National Restaurant Association, large corporations like Uber and Doordash, and real estate developers have collectively poured more than $600,000 into Portland on mailers, advertising, and misinformation campaigns,” Sanders continued, “all so they can continue to pay restaurant workers and gig workers subminimum wages.”
“As a result of their efforts, polling shows a very tight race,” he added. “And with only a few days to go until the vote is decided, it’s up to our progressive movement in Maine to stand together and fight to pass Question D.”
The Portland Press Herald reported that the proposal “was put on the ballot by the Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Livable Portland campaign, which has said it’s expected to raise wages for about 22,000 workers across the city.”
“Sanders is the latest in a flurry of last-minute endorsements secured by One Fair Wage, a national group focused on eliminating subminimum wages that allow certain workers, such as restaurant servers, to earn less than the standard minimum wage,” the newspaper noted. “Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage, said the senator has been working with that organization for years on minimum wage issues.”
Sanders urged voters to sign a petition in support of the ballot measure. Those who do so are redirected to the Maine voter information lookup service, where they can confirm their polling location.
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has remained stagnant since 2009 and provides only a fraction of what a full-time worker needs to afford a modest one-bedroom rental home in the United States. The federal subminimum wage of $2.13 per hour for tipped workers has not been raised since 1991.
According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, a full-time worker would need to make $17.74 per hour to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Maine, meaning the statewide minimum of $12.75 ($6.38 for tipped workers) and Portland’s current minimum of $13 ($6.50 for tipped workers) are inadequate. If Portland voters approve Question D during the November 8 midterms, the city would have an $18 hourly wage floor.
“At a time when half of American workers are living paycheck to paycheck, and millions of people earn starvation wages and struggle to put food on the table, the wealthy and powerful have never had it so good,” wrote Sanders.
The Vermont progressive expanded on that point Friday in a Fox News op-ed modeling the kind of anti-corporate profiteering and pro-working class messaging he would like to see prioritized by the Democratic Party, with which he caucuses.
Biden Accuses GOP of ‘Rooting for Recession’ After Jobs Report
The president slammed Republicans for working to “increase prescription drug costs, health insurance costs, and energy costs while giving more tax breaks to big corporations and the very wealthy.”
President Joe Biden on Friday accused the Republican leadership of “rooting for a recession” after new Labor Department figures showed the U.S. economy added 261,000 jobs in October, more than analysts expected but down slightly from the previous month.
“Today’s jobs report—adding 261,000 jobs with the unemployment rate still at a historically low 3.7%—shows that our jobs recovery remains strong,” Biden said in a statement.
Progressive economists largely echoed that sentiment, with the caveats that hiring is cooling and wage growth is decelerating significantly, a sign that the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes are taking their toll on the economy and workers. Biden has declined to criticize Fed Chair Jerome Powell for actively trying to weaken the labor market, even as a growing number of Democratic lawmakers warn he is about to throw millions out of work.
In his statement Friday, the president said that “inflation is our top economic challenge” and acknowledged that “American families are feeling squeezed.”
With the midterms just days away, the president sought to draw a sharp contrast between his policy agenda and that of the GOP, which he said wants to “increase prescription drug costs, health insurance costs, and energy costs, while giving more tax breaks to big corporations and the very wealthy.”
“I’ve got a plan to bring costs down, especially for healthcare, energy, and other everyday expenses,” Biden declared. “Here’s the deal: cutting corporate taxes and allowing Big Pharma to raise prices again is the Republican inflation plan and it’s a disaster.”
The notion that the GOP is hoping for and cheering on bad economic news with the goal of capitalizing politically was echoed by other Democrats as Republican lawmakers bashed the new jobs report as “the worst of the Biden presidency” and evidence of a “Biden-induced recession.”
“MAGA Republicans’ extreme agenda would make inflation much worse: plotting to repeal lower prescription drug costs, give tax breaks to the ultra-rich, and slash Social Security and Medicare,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), chair of the congressional Joint Economic Committee, added in a statement that “stronger-than-expected GDP growth in the third quarter, which made up for all the losses incurred by the declines in the first and second quarters, reflects confidence in the resilience of the U.S. economy.”
“Republicans want to choke it all off,” Beyer added, pointing to GOP threats to use the debt ceiling as leverage to cut Social Security and Medicare if they retake control of Congress.
“They are threatening debt default and economic catastrophe to gut Social Security and Medicare, which could eliminate nearly six million jobs and cost the U.S. billions of dollars in lost economic activity,” said Beyer. “Republicans are threatening to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, which would raise prescription drug costs and health insurance premiums. And they are planning giveaways to big corporations and the wealthy at the expense of everyday workers and families, which would stoke higher inflation and leave most U.S. households worse off.”
Republicans have made the economy, and inflation in particular, central to their midterm attacks on Democrats. But the right-wing party’s leadership and candidates have done little to spell out an alternative agenda that would bring prices down from a four-decade high—and some of their proposals, such as making former President Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the rich permanent, would exacerbate the problem.
Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik noted earlier this week that “a look at the GOP’s election manifesto, the ‘Commitment to America‘ recently issued by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), reveals no specifics. Nor have Republican candidates done so during the multitude of appearances they’ve made on cable talk shows, despite specific and pointed questions by the hosts.”
“Undoubtedly, more can be done [to combat inflation],” Hiltzik continued. “President Biden is jawboning oil companies about their huge run-up in profits, but that’s just one industry. Corporate profits have soared since mid-2020 while average worker earnings have remained muted—a little-noticed spur to inflation.”
“Has the GOP embraced those ideas? Of course not—corporate managements and the big oil companies are its patrons,” he added.