Portland poll shows voters support tipped minimum wage increase

A survey of likely Portland voters, commissioned by the Maine People’s Alliance and conducted by the Maine People’s Resource Center, shows overwhelming support for several initiatives to raise the minimum wage, including the plan passed by the Portland City Council that would increase the base sub-minimum wage for tipped workers from the current rate of $3.75 an hour to $6.35 in 2016 and to $6.93 in 2017.

67% of Portlanders supported the increase for tipped workers as passed by the council and 60% said a candidate for mayor or city council who supported increasing the sub-minimum tipped wage on this schedule would be more likely to have their vote. Of those voters, more than half said support for the increase would make them “much more likely” to vote for a candidate.

“This poll shows clearly that Portland residents believe the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers isn’t fair and needs to be increased. City Councilors shouldn’t second-guess the increase in the tipped wage,” said Amy Halsted, Maine People’s Alliance Associate Director. “Portland’s tipped workers, who are overwhelmingly women and many of whom are supporting families on poverty wages, deserve better. City Councilors should stand with women—and with workers—and protect the wage increase for tipped workers.”

Tipped workers in Portland, who include restaurant servers, valets, bellhops, nail technicians, hair stylists, and food delivery drivers, make a median wage of just $8.77 per hour including tips—well below the newly-passed minimum wage of $10.10 per hour.

Other minimum wage increase proposals were also popular among Portland voters:

75% of respondents supported the Council’s vote to raise the overall minimum wage in Portland from $7.50 an hour to $10.10 in 2016 and then $10.68 in 2017.

A plurality of 48% said they would vote in favor of a referendum on the municipal ballot this November to raise the wage in Portland to $15 an hour.

76% of respondents said they would vote in favor of a statewide initiative, likely to be on the ballot in 2016, which would raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour in 2017 and by $1 each year until it is $12 an hour in 2020 and would eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers by 2024.

“Working for tips, you never know which week is the one when you’ll come up short because you never really know how busy the restaurant will be, how generous your patrons will be, or how many tables you’ll have to serve just to make ends meet,” said Julia Legler, a restaurant server in Portland. “In Maine, 80 percent of tipped workers are women and nearly a third of them are moms. There’s something wrong when the women serving food to hundreds of Portlanders every night can’t afford to feed their own families.”

The poll also showed that the Portland mayoral election will begin as a two-man race. Challenger Ethan Strimling currently holds a significant lead over incumbent mayor Michael Brennan, with other challengers further behind and a large bloc of voters still undecided.

Full poll results here.

Photo via Flickr/daveblog.

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