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National Restaurant Association - Wage increases defeated in 3 races

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Wage increases defeated in 3 races

Voters in three key elections resoundingly rejected proposals Nov. 3 to dramatically increase the minimum wage in their cities.

In Portland, Maine, 58 percent of voters rejected a referendum to raise the wage to $15 an hour, compared with 42 percent who supported it. In the small town of McCall, Idaho, an ordinance to establish a municipal minimum wage of $10.25 was voted down, and in Tacoma, Wash., a ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour also was defeated in favor of a $12 wage that would be phased in over two years.

The Maine Restaurant Association, along with the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, helped spearhead a “Too Far, Too Fast” campaign dedicated to spreading the word about the damage a $15 wage could do to businesses and their employees.

Greg Dougal, MRA president and CEO, said he thinks a $15 minimum wage mandate “would have changed the landscape of Portland forever.”

“A lot of small businesses would have had to alter their operations. Some might have had to close. I think there would have been a lot less wait staff and a lot more electronic devices providing service.”

Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Restaurant Association, said the defeat of the ballot initiative in Tacoma was a “huge statement” about how voters want to talk about wages.

“While people do want an increase in the minimum wage, they want it done the right way,” he said. “They want to be respectful of the impact it would have on small businesses and the economics of their community.”

He added that the outcome makes sense for Tacoma’s restaurants and business community.

“Going forward, Tacoma will serve as an example of what types of solutions can be found to ensure both employers and employees are successful.”

Pam Eaton, executive director of the Idaho Lodging and Restaurant Association, said a strong grassroots campaign helped local businesses get the word out about how the wage increase would hurt local businesses and the economy.

“I think we were really able to get the facts out to the voters,” she said.

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