July 17, 2019
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Portland’s minimum-wage workers got an 11-cent raise last week

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Downtown Portland as pictured May 17, 2018.

Portland’s full-time minimum-wage workers just received a raise of $220 a year.

On July 1, the minimum wage within city limits jumped up to $11.11, an 11-cent increase over the previous level of $11.00 per hour, which has been the statewide minimum wage since Jan. 1.

The citywide hike is the result of an ordinance the Portland City Council approved in July 2015 to raise the municipal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, and peg annual increases to the consumer price index.

At the time, the state minimum wage was $7.50, but the gap between the state and city minimum wages has narrowed since Maine voters approved a statewide minimum wage increase in 2016 that has brought the wage level up to $11 per hour this year. The statewide minimum wage will continue increasing every January.

The current $11.11 wage was determined by adding the CPI increase in 2018 (1.9 percent) to $10.90, Portland’s minimum wage level that took effect July 1, 2018.

In the case of tipped workers, employers may consider tips received by an employee as part of the minimum wage, but must ensure that employees receive a direct wage of at least $5.50 an hour and the total equivalent of at least $11.11 an hour. If tipped employees can show that their total wages (tips and direct wage) amount to less than $11.11, employers are required to make up the difference.

As written in the ordinance, employers who have “a place of business” within the city of Portland must pay every employee “who performs work” for the employer “within the municipal limits of the city” a minimum wage of $11.11. It does not affect businesses located outside of Portland that hire workers who labor within city limits.

The increase does little to address the challenge that minimum-wage workers face living in Portland, where the cost of living and housing costs are far higher than the national average. According to a 2019 study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the “housing wage” in Portland — defined as “what a full-time worker in a given community must earn to afford a modest rental home” — is $26.67.

The city does not keep statistics on the number of minimum wage workers in Portland. According to information provided by the Maine Department of Labor, there were an estimated 2,731 Portland workers who made less than $25,000 in 2017. At the new rate, a full-time minimum-wage worker working 40 hours a week makes roughly $23,109 annually.



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