Can Portland raise the minimum wage and still attract businesses
PORTLAND, Maine Before the president and one of Maine's top gubernatorial candidates made headlines in recent weeks calling for a higher minimum wage, Portland's mayor said he'll pursue one in the state's largest city.
And with a shorter path to approval and a constituency widely regarded as supporting liberal causes, Portland is positioned to be among the leaders in the national charge toward sweeping wage increases. cities that have taken the step may provideprovide wholesale Red Wings cheap jerseys
hope that Portland can prop up its wageswages wholesale Red Wings jerseys
without losing businesses or jobs, but opponents remain unconvinced.
And with workers who, on average, already make at least a dollar more than the federal minimum wage, critics argue it may not be necessary to set a new bottom limit for pay in Portland.
During the annual State of the Union address in late January, President Barack Obama called for an increase in the federal minimum wage starting with a low limit of $10.10 per hour for federal contractors. Rep. MikeMike cheap Red Wings jersey
Michaud said, if elected to the Blaine House, he'd push to hike the state minimum wage to $9 an hour essentially reviving a bill that fellow Democrats in the Legislature were unable to get past Republican Gov. Paul LePage's veto pen last summer.
But both of those efforts promise to involve drawn out political battles with uncertain timelines or results.
A week before Obama's address, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said in his yearly State of the City speech that Maine's largest city won't be waiting to see how those battles play out. He called for the establishment of a minimum wage in Portland, where the traditionally left leaning voters and City Council may more quickly embrace the move.
"I'm fairly certain nothing will happen at the state level by the end of the year and so far, what the president has proposed only applies to federal contractors. What I looking for is a minimum wage that applies to all workers," Brennan said late last week.
"Cities are becoming less tolerant and less patient with state and national government actions or inactions, as the case may be and they taking things into their own hands," said Portland Community Chamber consultant Christopher O'Neil. "Mike Brennan is the poster child for that in Maine."
A place at the front of the progressive pack is a position the Forest City is accustomed to. It was among the first in the country to adopt rules protecting gays from discrimination in 1992, and voters last fall made Portland the first East Coast city to legalize recreational marijuana use, among other movement leading measures over the past few decades.
"Portland, at least in recent years, has never been shy about being on the tip of the spear," said O'Neil. "At least from the Chamber of Commerce perspective, that can be scary. We always said, 'Yes, be pioneering, but don make us an outlier, and don put us at a disadvantage compared to other cities.'"
Brennan said he plans to assemble a task force to investigate a new minimum wage for Portland in March, with hopes that team will recommend a path forward for the city.
He said he doesn't have a particular hourly wage amount in mind, nor any specific plans on whether or how to phase one in over time.
"Certainly, the number that everybody been talking about recently at the national level and some state levels is at least $10 an hour," he said. "But I'm not wedded to any particular numbers."
Knowing it's uncharted territory, at least in Maine, Brennan said he will seek a transparent process with multiple opportunities for public input.
On a national scene, Portland isn't alone. However, almost every other city to enact or propose a municipal minimum wage is on the Pacific Coast.
Others who have taken the plunge San Francisco, Santa Fe, San Jose and suburban SeaTac, Wash. are all on the West Coast, as are four of the five other cities where new minimum wages are being proposed.
Some of the newest cities to the movement are eyeing minimum wages of $15 per hour, more than double the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.
Maine's minimum wage is $7.50 per hour.
'A market consideration'
Jim Coen is the executive director of the Portland based Maine Franchise Owners Association, which represents owners and operators of local Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's and Burger King franchises, among others.
According to the association, Portland has the second most such franchises in the state, with 95. Bangor, where there is a shopping mall, has 98.
Fast food restaurants and retail stores collectively employ 80 percent of Maine's minimum wage earners, according to the state's Center for Workforce Research.
Coen reiterated a frequently made argument against increasing the minimum wage Thursday, saying the additional payroll costs hefted onto low margin businesses could be the difference between staying open and closing.
"The challenge is it increases labor costs across thethe official Red Wings jersey
board but doesn necessarily deal with whether a location is marginally profitable or not," Coen said. "It puts pressure on franchise owners and business owners to make hard decisions about what to do with marginally profitable establishments. It might turn a marginally profitable situation into a no profit or unprofitable situation, which could lead to the need to close the location."
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least, he said, a business without much financial wiggle room could decide to keep fewer employees if it has to pay each employee more.