LePage on foreign workers: ‘It’s hard to hear what they’re saying’

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) after LePage introduced him at a campaign rally in Portland, Maine March 3, 2016.  REUTERS/Joel Page

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Maine Gov. Paul LePage after LePage introduced him at a March rally in Portland. (REUTERS – Joel Page)

Gov. Paul LePage’s speech at the Maine Republican Party’s convention on Saturday contained a riff on the accents of foreign workers from Bulgaria and India.

It came after the governor called a referendum question from progressive groups that would raise Maine’s minimum wage to $12 by 2020 “a horrible bill” and criticized Democrats for spiking a competing measure for a lower increase.

The proposed referendum would also raise Maine’s tipped hourly minimum wage from $3.75 to $5 in 2017, after which it will rise each year until it reaches the non-tipped minimum. Business groups particularly don’t like that provision.

LePage made the case that restaurants — especially on Maine’s coast — are already using foreign labor to hold costs down.

Here’s his full quote, with the governor’s syntax triple-checked and retained:

“You already have restaurants, in the summer, if you go on the coast, it’s hard to hear what they’re saying. Did you ever try to say ‘What’s the special today?’ from somebody from Bulgaria? And the worst ones if they’re from India! I mean, they’re all lovely people but it takes … you’ve got to have an interpreter. But how many of you gone and tried to return something from Amazon on a telephone? Great, I’m excited: They’re willing to do the work that some of our people are not. However, they’re doing it because they get tips. What happens if there’s no tips?”

It’s likely to be yet another example of a LePage quote that opponents pounce on. But it got laughs at the convention.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.