Last week the four unions at Bath Iron Works came out in favor of Senator Collins’ re-election, as widely reported in the Maine media. The majority of the workers showed their appreciation for Senator Collins’ success in obtaining contracts to keep them working, and working at good wages. In her earlier campaigns those unions favored her Democratic opponent, most recently then U.S. Representative Tom Allen of the First Maine Congressional District.
No one disputes Senator Collins’ hard work on behalf of Bath Iron Works. To be sure, U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree, who succeeded Allen in the First District, works every bit as hard. But then one expects Democrats to work on behalf of workingmen and workingwomen. (It is too early to evaluate Senator Angus King’s contributions, while U.S. Representative Michael Michaud’s Second Congressional District doesn’t include Bath Iron Works.)
As we all know, Senator Collins loves to bill herself as “Our Senator,” suggesting that she has the support of nearly every Mainer. But her vote today with all but one of her fellow Republican Senators to block President Obama’s effort to raise the minimum wage shows her true colors: as a genuine conservative whose mission is to make the richest Mainers, and the richest Americans, ever richer, whatever the “trickle down” unpleasantries then heaped upon the rest of us.
The bill would have raised the national minimum wage from $7.25 an hour, where it has been since 2009, to $10.10 an hour. Using the decades-old right-wing Republican playbook, Senator Collins argued that lots of Mainers–not least young summer workers–would not be hired in order to pay the would-be outrageously high minimum wage to existing workers. But then, as she and her fellow conservatives also argued, many current workers would lose their jobs as especially small businesses struggle to pay the higher minimum wage.
Many respected economists reject these arguments as scare tactics. No doubt there WOULD be some losses of jobs and some non-hires if the legislation had passed. But hardly enough to justify sinking it. Meanwhile 62% of Americans in a new respected poll favored the $10.10 minimum wage increase. “Our Senator,” however, has a different agenda, and it began in her first year in office in trying to eliminate the inheritance tax altogether for the wealthiest Americans. These are the folks she cares most about.
It is understandable that many of the Bath Iron Works union members didn’t see the shameless shifting positions of Senator Collins. But must the rest of us who don’t constitute the 1% be so seduced?