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Restaurant owners, staff launch campaign against Portland proposal to end tip credit

Virus Outbreak Maine
Robert F. Bukaty
Customers dine on the sidewalk outside Portland Pie, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Brunswick, Maine.

Restaurant owners and workers have launched a campaign against a Portland ballot question that seeks to eliminate the tip credit in favor of an $18-an-hour minimum wage.

Under the tip credit, employers pay restaurant workers half the minimum wage and make up the difference if tips don't make up the full amount. If the ballot measure is approved, the tip credit would be fully eliminated in 2025.

If it's eliminated, restaurant owners in Portland would pay employees the full minimum wage. Gregory Dugal of Hospitality Maine, which is a part of Restaurant Industry United, says that would actually harm workers.

"Eliminating the tip credit and paying full minimum wage, which would of course under this scenario be $18, would be that people would just not tip as greatly any more," Dugal says.

The tip credit was briefly eliminated in Maine after a statewide referendum in 2016. Lawmakers reinstated it after restaurant workers lobbied to bring it back.

The current proposal in Portland was spearheaded by the Democratic Socialists of America.