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Maine Restaurant Owners Battle Over Tipped Wage Proposal

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A Maine restaurant owner is opposing a proposal to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers in response to others within the industry expressing their support.

DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant Manager Steve DiMillo has worked at his family business since he was a kid.

“The only way to adapt to these changes would be to raise prices drastically, which would be devastating for individuals on fixed and lower incomes,” DiMillo wrote in the Portland Press Herald. “It could result in cutting back on employees, potentially hurting the very people this referendum is supposedly designed to help – or in some instances, just closing the business down.”

Robert’s Maine Grill Owner Michael Landgarten and Newcastle Publick House Owner Alex Nevens wrote June 14 in favor of the proposal.

State lawmakers have proposed a measure that would increase the minimum wage from $7.50 to $12 an hour by 2020. It includes a provision that would increase the minimum wage for tipped workers from $3.75 all the way to $12 an hour by 2024. DiMillo supports raising the minimum wage, but warns the tipped provision is dangerous.

“This initiative would generate millions in new consumer spending, creating jobs and helping to build an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few,” Landgarten and Nevens wrote in the Portland Press Herald. “We know it works. In the seven states with higher minimum wages, and with no subminimum wage for tipped workers, restaurants do better than in the rest of the country.”

DiMillo also notes some restaurants may just eliminate tipped positions entirely, resulting in workers getting paid less. Tipped workers are likely to get more than the minimum wage after tips, but still has a safety net if they don’t. Tip credits guarantee a worker will receive at least the minimum wage if they happen to not make enough in tips.

Maine voters will get the chance to decide on the minimum wage increase during a ballot vote Nov. 8. Maine could be put on track to have one of the highest minimum wages in the country if it passes. New York and California became the first states Apr. 4 to pass a $15 minimum wage.

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