LEWISTON — A well-known Lewiston-Auburn shoe store owner is being featured in a video on President Obama’s Facebook page.

Jim Wellehan, the owner of Lamey-Wellehan, a small Maine shoe store chain based in Auburn, is being touted by Obama for paying his employees a “fair wage.” The video is a tie to Obama’s push to move the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — it’s currently $7.25 an hour, lower than Maine’s minimum wage of $7.50.

In his post on the social media site, Obama writes, “Watch: Jim owns a shoe store that’s been open for 100 years, and he knows the importance of paying his employees a fair wage.”

In the two-minute, professional-quality video, Wellehan is featured jogging on the track at Auburn’s Edward Little High School, working on shoes in the store and standing in his stock room. He speaks about the 100 people he employs, citing many by name and detailing their years with his company. He also notes that the business is one his father started in 1914 and is 100 years old this year.

Wellehan speaks to the importance of paying his employees well and fairly.

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“When I was a kid, America was definitely committed to fairness, and that concern for other people seems to be missing today in our corporate culture and we’ve got to change that,” Wellehan says. “We should pay people enough to live on comfortably, educate their kids, to bring up their kids.”

Wellehan says raising the minimum wage will come back to help the economy.

Opponents to raising the minimum wage say it will force small businesses and other employers to lay off workers or reduce hours.

Wellehan refutes that in the video.

“People making the minimum wage who get a raise will spend every nickel they get; it’s going to go back into the economy, it’s going to help create jobs, it’s what we need to do,” Wellehan says.

Wellehan said Friday that the video was shot about two weeks ago by a crew from Chicago. He said he’s long supported increasing the federal minimum wage and that the average hourly rate for his employees was about $15 per hour.

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As of the end of the day on Friday, the video had received over 15,000 “likes” from Facebook users.

Wellehan, 76,  said he enjoyed making the video.

“The only problem with it was when I was watching it, I thought, ‘Gee, that’s an old guy talking,'” Wellehan quipped.

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Editor’s note: This story was updated on July 14, 2013 to reflect the average wage Wellehan pays his employees.


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