After a 6-3 vote by City Council, the minimum wage in Portland will go up. The question remains how much and how soon. Two ballot initiatives, one locally and one statewide, may also effect the minimum wage within the next two years.
The newly passed ordinance raises the minimum wage within Portland to $10.10 per hour starting January 1st, 2016. It will go up to $10.68 on January 1st, 2017. Starting in 2018, on July 1st of every year, the wage will increase with the Consumer Price Index, a commonly used measure of inflation.
Councilors Costa, Donoghue, Duson, Hinck, Marshall and Mayor Brennan voted in favor. Councilors Brennerman, Mavodones and Suslovic voted against.
According to the Portland Press Herald the City ordinance raises the minimum wage for tipped employees to $6.35. This is because the state’s tip credit is $3.50. Employers can reduce the minimum wage of a tipped worker by up to $3.50, along as the worker still earns at least minimum wage after tips.
The City Council did not intend to raise the minimum wage for workers that receive tips, but by not addressing the issue they inadvertently may have raised the minimum wage for them, as well.
Whether this schedule of raises will remain in place is up in the air. This November a city ballot initiative spearheaded by the Portland Green Independent Party will ask voters to support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
The initiative would raise the minimum wage for large employers (500 or more employees) to $12 in 2016 and $15 in 2017. For small businesses (less than 500 employees) the minimum wage would be raised to $10 in July 2016, to $12 in July 2017, to $13.50 in July 2018, and to $15 in July 2019.
The ballot question would raise the minimum wage for tipped employees. The initiative would set the tipped minimum wage in Portland to $11.25 by allowing the state’s tip credit to remain in place. Plus tips the wage must reach $15 per hour, or the employer must pay the difference.
The Greens’ citizen initiative, in contrast to the new City ordinance, contains language on the enforcement of the minimum wage ordinance. Employees would issue complaints to the City Manager, who would have to investigate and respond within 15 “work” days. Fines could be imposed of up to $100 per affected employee per day that a violation occurred.
Meanwhile, the Maine People’s Alliance and Maine AFL-CIO are collecting signatures for a statewide citizen initiative that would raise the state minimum wage to $9 in 2017. The minimum wage would then be increased by $1 every year until it reaches $12 by 2020. After that it would increase at the same rate as the cost of living, similar to the local proposals.
The state initiative would also incrementally raise the tipped minimum wage until it matches the minimum wage for all other workers by 2024.
The statewide $12 minimum wage is still in the signature collection phase for the November 2016 ballot.