The majority of Portland’s independent business owners surveyed support the city’s new minimum wage ordinance, which increases the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, but most oppose a city referendum that would boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour, according to the results of a questionnaire sent out by Portland Buy Local.

According to the online survey, 66 percent of respondents support the city’s minimum wage ordinance and 24 percent oppose it.

Sixty-three percent of respondents oppose the proposal to increase the minimum wage in Portland to $15 an hour, and 28 percent support it.

Ellen Kanner, co-owner of Dobra Tea on Exchange Street, said a $15 an hour minimum wage may work in affluent cities like San Fransisco but won’t work in Maine because the middle class here can’t afford it.

“Unless we are going to bump up everybody’s pay, the middle class will be paying for this,” she said of the proposed $15 an hour minimum wage. “The people on the lower end with no skill will get big raises – double what they make now – and we are not going to get that.”

She said her employees start off at $8 an hour but eventually can make between $12 and $15 an hour including tips.

Debra Tenenbaum, a board member of Portland Buy Local, said the survey shows that many business owners support giving workers a fair wage but there’s a limit to how much they can afford to pay them.

“There is only a certain level that business owners can pay their employees before they have problems staying in business,” said Tenebaum, who owns Front Porch Public Relations.

Portland Buy Local emailed the survey last week to about 350 members who own businesses, and 105 members responded.

None said they pay $7.50 an hour, the state minimum wage, and only three said they pay employees less than $9 an hour.

More than half of the respondents pay their employees between $9 and $15 an hour.

The new Portland minimum wage goes into effect on Jan. 1.

The wage will rise to $10.68 an hour in 2017, and starting in 2018 it will increase on July 1 at the same rate as the Consumer Price Index, which accounts for inflation.

A referendum on the November ballot would raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by Jan. 1, 2017, for any business with 500 or more employees, and by July 1, 2019, for smaller businesses.


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