Though not always directly, the Walmart labor battles have contributed to national momentum to raise the federal $7.25 minimum wage, as five states and four local governments voted to do in 2013. (A bill proposing to raise Maine’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $9 by 2016 passed the state senate in April but was vetoed by LePage in July.) So if the idea sitting around with your family in stuporous, tryptophanic purgatory the day after Thanksgiving still makes you squirm, you now have another option: get out and join a protest.
Money fixes in Washington County
With a proposal that’s been in the works for a few years, a Passamaquoddy tribe is advancing plans to build a 123,000 square-foot bottled-water plant, using water from the Tomah aquifer on its small Indian Township reservation in Washington County.
Will the Passamaquoddy water be a viable alternative to Poland Spring? Probably not. The tribe has said it “don’t want to compete” with the Nestle-owned corporation; it just wants to create jobs in its own community. The plant aims to fulfill that, as backers project up to 70 industrial jobs could be created upon completion.
But spring water isn’t the only big business venture bubbling in the state’s poorest county. The State Policy Network, a national right-wing think tank funded in part by the Koch brothers, and the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center have proposed an initiative called “FreeME,” investing $35,000 in a campaign to turn Washington County into a free-market playland, waiving existing taxes and governing the county with anti-union right-to-work laws. The initiative is currently being evaluated by Governor LePage before being put to the Maine legislature.\
Though still in their infant stages, the initiatives illustrate the crossroads of prevailing economic philosophies within the state. Passamaquoddy spokespeople have said the plant’s revenue would help fund schools, public safety, health care, and assisted living at Indian Township — all programs that have suffered from Republican-backed budget cuts in recent years — while the State Policy Network proposal aims to remake the county into thinly veiled test site for a conservative libertarian agenda, hoping to one day convert Maine to a tax-free haven.
George Zimmerman’s leering face
According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, the US incarcerates more of its people — 716 per 100,000 — than any other country in the world, almost three times as much as second-place Israel. It’s an unfathomable, distressing amount of people. Yet somehow, this man isn’t one of them.
Back in July, the entire country anxiously awaited the verdict of George Zimmerman’s trial, in which he was ultimately acquitted on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter following the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, in Florida on February 26, 2012. The trial and verdict rightly became mainstream news, and prompted a national discussion about race and privilege that likely won’t soon end. It was also incredibly polarizing: The Pew Research Center reported that 86 percent of blacks were dissatisfied with the verdict (contrasted with 30 percent of whites), and it sparked countless legal arguments about the vague interpretability of stand-your-ground laws.