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Portland businesses are pushing a new effort to limit the city's emergency minimum wage measure

FILE - In this Friday, March 11, 2016 file photo, fishing boats are tied up at a wharf on the waterfront in Portland, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
FILE - In this Friday, March 11, 2016 file photo, fishing boats are tied up at a wharf on the waterfront in Portland, Maine.

Businesses in Portland are looking to limit the city's emergency wage ordinance.

A referendum passed in 2020 requires a 50% boost in the city's minimum wage for non-remote employees during any state of emergency. But organizers are collecting signatures for a referendum that would restrict the ordinance to only apply when the City Council declares a state of emergency, not the state.

Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Quincy Hentzel said the effort has been organized by local childcare providers, who had to deal with unexpected expenses this winter when they were forced to boost wages for about a week during a storm that didn't impact the city.

"We do see this posing a real challenge to businesses, and particularly when there's no hazard. There's not an event happening in the city of Portland, that would warrant an emergency wage," Hentzel said.

But Wes Pelletier, a spokesperson for the Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, said workers shouldn't have to wait for city officials to declare an emergency in order to get additional pay.

"So while the rest of the state is hunkering down for a storm, they have to wait for City Council's blessing to basically make sure that they are going to get paid compensation for traveling through dangerous roads, icy roads, storm, winds," Pelletier said.

Organizers have until June 20 to collect 1,500 signatures in support of the ballot question.