SOUTH PORTLAND — Newly elected City Councilor Brad Fox has requested a workshop to discuss increasing the minimum wage in the city.
“The workshop would follow Portland’s lead and investigate the possibility of raising the minimum wage here in South Portland,” Fox said in an email Tuesday morning. “We are united as an economic entity and what one city does affects the other, and the entire region.”
Portland Mayor Michael Brennan introduced his proposal to raise the city’s minimum wage last January. The proposed ordinance would increase the minimum wage from the state-mandated $7.50 per hour to no less than $9.50 on July 1, 2015, with incremental increase each year thereafter.
The specifics of the Portland ordinance are still evolving, and it is currently before the City Council Finance Committee.
Fox believes that South Portland’s “extremely low minimum wage” is one of the city’s biggest problems.
“If only Portland raises the wage, will good workers leave South Portland for a better wage there? Portland pays substitute teachers $100 a day. South Portland pays $80 a day. Where would you offer your services first? I’ve faced that quandary myself,” Fox said.
Without a reliable economic analysis to prove that raising the minimum wage reduces jobs, Fox said, “the evidence shows that increasing wages above the current minimum wage … builds a stronger economy.”
Earning a living wage also creates more opportunities for residents to patronize local businesses, he said, noting that “Henry Ford knew enough to pay his workers a living wage so they could afford to buy Ford automobiles.”
The question could end up in a City Council workshop in mid January or February.
“I know that some folks will wish that I had put this off for a ‘better’ time, until we’ve ‘recovered’ from the contentious clean-air issue of the past year,” Fox said. “But I realized that I would be going against my own fundamental belief in doing what’s right and necessary for the people who live and work South Portland if I waited to bring this up. I believe that the time has come to raise the minimum wage.”