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Portland raises its minimum wage for workers, perhaps even for some workers it did not intend

Earlier this week, Portland’s mayor signed into law minimum wage increase for workers in Portland. The minimum wage increase will go into effect in January.

The language of the law that the mayor signed could lead to tipped workers also receiving a wage increase even though some of the city’s lawmakers did not intend to give tipped workers a wage increase. When Portland’s mayor, Michael Brennan, learned that the new law would affect tipped workers, he was caught off guard. “That’s never been part of the discussions we’ve had,” Brennan said. “It was very clear that we weren’t trying to move toward increasing the financial impact on restaurants.” Since some lawmakers, including the mayor, did not intend to require increased wages for tipped workers, the Portland City Council will be considering a fix to the newly passed law that would not raise the minimum wage for tipped workers.

Portland’s decision to increase the minimum wage has sparked conversations in other Maine cities about whether they should also increase the minimum wage in their cities. This issue is perhaps no more serious than in South Portland since it borders Portland and has a lot of businesses with minimum wage workers. South Portland City Council member Tom Blake is concerned that it might be more difficult for South Portland employers to find good employees because the best workers may decide to seek employment in Portland, where the wages are higher, instead of South Portland. South Portland’s mayor, Linda Cohen, hopes that the Greater Portland Council of Governments can address the issue with a regional wage structure that will work for the whole area.

Bangor is also considering a minimum wage increase in order to remain a competitive location for workers. The Bangor City Council is scheduled to vote on a minimum wage increase introduced by Councilor Joe Baldacci. Baldacci said that “if we’re serious about keeping young people and young families in Bangor, wages are a factor.”

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