Mayor Strimling vows to protect subminimum wage increase in Portland
After losing a battle over the minimum wage at the ballot box by double digits in November, Maine Governor Paul LePage is now attempting to roll back parts of the minimum wage increase law though the legislature. LePage has a tough path, given that Democrats maintain control of the House of Representatives, but that doesn’t mean Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, a strong minimum wage proponent, is slacking off in defending the measure.
In his State of the City Address on Monday night, Strimling pledged that his city will respect the will of Maine voters, even if LePage doesn’t.
“Let me state unequivocally,” said Strimling. “If Augusta rolls back any portion of the law that impacts those working in our service industry, four out of five of whom are women, I will ask this council to swiftly vote to eliminate by 2024 the subminimum wage in Portland, as affirmed by over 27,000 people at the ballot box this fall.”
That number refers to the 72% of Portland voters who supported Question 4, the minimum wage referendum.
The subminimum wage for workers who receive at least $30 a month in tips increased from $3.75 to $5 an hour on Saturday, the first raise for tipped workers in eight years and an important increase for jobs that make an average of $9.06 an hour, including tips.
“It will make a huge difference to make that little bit more an hour. It makes it more possible to support yourself and support your family,” said Liz McArthur, a restaurant server and single mother living in Lewiston, who received a raise this week.
LePage has been joined in his advocacy by some restaurant owners, who have spread the false rumor that increasing the tipped wage will lead to the end of tipping by restaurant patrons. That hasn’t been the case in the other New England states that already have higher tipped wages, or in the seven states that have no subminimum wage for tipped workers. In those states, restaurant industry growth and employment is stronger than the national average while restaurant servers take home higher wages.
Photo via Andi Parkinson.
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