Testimony Heard On Proposed Minimum Wage Increase; Vote Next Year

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Elia Townsend, Maine Womens' Lobby Testified in Support of the Proposal.

Eliza Townsend, Maine Womens’ Lobby Testified, in Support of the Proposal.

Business Owner and State Senator Justin Alfond (D) Testified in Favor of the Proposal.

Business Owner and State Senator Justin Alfond (D) Testified in Favor of the Proposal.

Restaurant Owner Steve DiMillo said He Represents All Restaurants When He Says He Does Not Support the Proposal.

Restaurant Owner Steve DiMillo said He Represents All Portland Restaurants When He Says He Does Not Support the Proposal.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,263)

The Finance Committee heard several hours of testimony this evening on the proposed minimum wage increase – with the overwhelming majority of testimony supporting the proposed increase. The hearing was the culmination of a series of task force meetings initiated by Mayor Michael Brennan earlier this year.  Chair of the Committee, Councilor Nicholas Mavodones said no vote on the proposal would occur until early next year. That vote will be forwarded onto the full city council for its consideration.  More material is needed.

At the committee’s meeting on November 20th, (see post # 2,235 herein) restaurant related businesses attacked the proposal predicting dire consequences should the proposal be implemented.  Those included restaurants fleeing Portland and job loss, although no one provided evidence to support those claims. Last month, Steve DiMillo, representing the iconic DiMillo’s  Waterfront Restaurant, said the changes would cost him $139,000.  This evening DiMillo backed off that figure; the changes would now cost him $91,000.  “Restaurant businesses do not deserve to be dumped on by the city council,” he said this evening. DiMillo also said that the matter should  not be addressed at the city level.

At the outset of the meeting, the Mayor, explained that the tipped wage portion of the increase could be delayed until July 1, 2016 to give employers more time to adjust for the changes.  Another revision includes holding off on hiring an employee to enforce the policy until it is determined whether or not the volume of complaints warrants such a hire. Although someone might take the city to court on the changes, the city believes it has a solid case.  It was also stated by the Mayor that the proposed ordinance would not include an age (16 – 18) exclusion in the policy that could lead to confusion.  Such categories are not included in the State minimum wage law as well.

Eliza Townsend, Executive Director,  Maine Womens‘ Lobby, told the Finance Committee that six of ten people earning minimum wage are women.  “We could find ourselves living in a wealthy community only with no middle class,” she cautioned. David Beseda, on the University of New England faculty, said that with the growing number of higher city minimum wages now implemented, there are no reports of job loss resulting over the past 20 years. Restaurants will not flee the city as some predict because they cannot maintain the customer base outside of a city, Beseda said.

State Senator Justin Alfond (D) an owner of Bayside Bowl and Restaurant said he offers health insurance and higher than the minimum wage to his 20 employees.  “We can help raise the standard of living for working people.  It is morally the correct thing to do.  I know you can pay wages above average and make a profit.”