An upcoming ballot measure could push the minimum wage in Portland, Maine, to $15 an hour. Residents of Maine's largest city are scheduled to vote on the issue Tuesday, according to local news outlet WCSH.
Starting in January, the New England city will increase its minimum wage to $10.10, not including tipped employees such as servers or bartenders. But residents could vote to raise that figure to $15 an hour. The issued is expected to be the first question on the ballot, and if it passes would be phased in over time.
Businesses that had at least 500 employees would have to begin paying employees $15 an hour starting in 2017, with the rest of the city joining in paying the higher rate by 2019. A group called the Too Far, Too Fast coalition is expected to hold a news conference against the uptick in minimum wage, saying it would hurt local businesses. Portlanders for a Living Wage has been one of the groups leading the charge, telling citizens that $10.10 still isn't a suitable or livable hourly wage.
Some business owners in the city have said the raise in wages could force layoffs and generally be a detriment to local shops.
“Jumping up that quickly is just going to kill businesses around here. It’s just going to make everything go downhill,” said Nathan Hopkins, assistant manager at Play It Again Sports in the city, according to local station WTMW. “We need to stay here and $15 an hour isn’t going to keep us here.”
The sports store will host the news conference from the Too Far, Too Fast coalition that is expected to criticize the hike in wages. Hopkins said that his business, which plans to add 10 employees, would have to cut payroll if the minimum wage moved to $15 an hour. While some business owners have spoken out for a no vote, advocate groups have continued their push for yes votes.
“We’re not concerned that it’s going to cause harm to the economy,” said Mako Bates of Portlanders for a Living Wage. “So far as we can tell, raising the minimum wage to a living wage is fair for workers, and it stimulates the local economy.”
Portland's debate over raising wages comes amid similar discussions occurring throughout the country. Cities like New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., have all increased the minimum wage or are in the process of doing so.