Voters In Portland, Maine Reject $18 Minimum Wage, Vote To Keep Tipped Rate

The ballot measure would have given the town one of the highest minimum wages in the country and eliminated the lower wage floor for servers.

Residents of Portland, Maine, voted Tuesday against raising the city’s minimum wage to $18 and eliminating the lower, tipped minimum wage for restaurant servers.

The ballot measure known as Question D would have given the waterfront town one of the highest minimum wages in the country. Had it gone into effect, the wage floor would have risen from its current rate of $13 per hour to $15 in January, then to $16.50 in 2024, and finally hit $18 in 2025.

What’s known as the minimum wage “tip credit” would also have been phased out over a similar three-year schedule. The tip credit allows employers to pay a lower minimum wage so long as gratuities make up the difference. Without it, companies would have been obligated to pay the full minimum wage of $18, with workers receiving tips on top of it.

The measure also called for extending the minimum wage protections to “taxi drivers and other ride-hailing services” as well as “personal shoppers” and “delivery workers.” That stipulation clearly targets gig companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash that operate on an “independent contractor” model to sidestep labor regulations.

Minimum wage measures fared better in other jurisdictions on Tuesday. Voters in Washington, D.C., voted overwhelmingly to phase out the city’s tipped minimum wage by 2027, and Nebraskans approved a ballot measure that will increase the state’s wage floor to $15 by 2026. Meanwhile, Nevadans were leaning towards boosting the state’s minimum wage to $12 by 2024, but the results were still too close to call on Wednesday.

Seattle and a handful of towns in California already have minimum wages above $17. The Portland measure would have given the Maine town one of the highest wage floors of any city on the East Coast, with Washington, D.C.’s set to hit $16.10 per hour in January.

Local employers in the service industry recently told the Portland Press-Herald that they were already having to pay above $18 per hour to attract workers amid historically low unemployment. Still, some told the newspaper they opposed the increase for a variety of reasons, including the fear of having to pay the higher rate if the labor market softens and wages come down.

The federal minimum wage is currently just $7.25 and hasn’t been raised in more than a decade due to Republican opposition. In lieu of action from Congress, a majority of states have now increased their wage floors above the federal rate. The $7.25 wage floor applies in any city or state that hasn’t instituted its own higher one.

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