Hamann's bill (LD 611: "An Act to Adjust Maine's Minimum Wage Annually Based on Cost-of-Living Changes") garnered vocal support from the Maine AFL-CIO as well as the Maine Women's Lobby and the statewide economic development organization Women, Work, and Community (between 55 and 60 percent of minimum wage workers are female). It was co-sponsored by two powerful Democrats in the state house: Senate President Justin Alfond, of Portland, and Speaker of the House Mark Eves, of North Berwick. The state Departments of Labor and Economic and Community Development, as well as the Maine Chamber of Commerce, opposed the bill, claiming that raising the minimum wage hurts businesses.
Hamann counters that economic security for workers will lead to higher demand for goods and services. The first-term legislator admits that "I thought I would have more Republican support. I thought it would be more bipartisan, because as far as I'm concerned, raising the minimum wage is rewarding hard work. It's rewarding self-reliance."
Left out of Lean In
IMPROVING THE CASE FOR WOMEN'S WORKPLACE EMPOWERMENT
• "Anyone who brings up gender in the workplace is wading into deep and muddy waters," writes Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, in her new book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (Knopf). If that's true — and I believe it is — Sandberg is practically swimming.
"For decades, we have focused on giving women the choice to work inside or outside the home," she writes, broaching one of several controversial statements contained in her book, which is part-memoir, part-manifesto. "We have celebrated the fact that women have the right to make this decision, and rightly so. But we have to ask ourselves if we have become so focused on supporting personal choices that we're failing to encourage women to aspire to leadership. It is time to cheer on girls and women who want to sit at the table, seek challenges, and lean into their careers."
To do so, Sandberg says, women need to understand the systemic challenges they face and then develop strategies to tackle them head-on. She details both in her book, describing troubling truths such as the fact that while success increases likeability for men, the reverse is true for women. She chides both the government and the private sector for failing to offer "paid personal time off, affordable high-quality child care, and flexible work practices" — a failure that demonstrates, she says, how little society values the work of caring for one's family. She also offers concrete advice for women at many stages of their careers.
"I have advised many women to preface negotiations by explaining that they know women often get paid less than men so they are going to negotiate rather than accept the original offer," Sandberg writes. "The second thing women must do is provide a legitimate explanation for the negotiation."
It's true, as several reviews have pointed out, that Sandberg's messages apply to a relatively exclusive class of women: high-earners, college graduates, those who can afford to hire outside help, and — mostly — moms (or those who hope to have children in the future). And yes, she fails to address important considerations such as how unions could play a role in women's workplace advancement, or that low wages are a much bigger obstacle than, say, a lack of parking places for pregnant women. Sandberg is unequivocally speaking to women who are fortunate enough to have choices; she could do a better job of acknowledging that for many women, work-life balance doesn't come in the form of a buffet, but rather as a plate of leftovers.