Should Portland Listen to “Patriotic” Millionaires?

Voters in Portland, ME, will next week decide at the ballot box whether to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

It’s a controversial proposal: The City Council just increased the city’s minimum wage  to $10.10 an hour, and many local voices — including the editorial board of the Press-Herald and the Maine Medical Center — have spoken out against the $15 mandate. Even  advocates for Portland’s $10.10 minimum wage have joined other small businesses in opposition to $15.

Given the overwhelming opposition from local voices, it was curious to see a commercial air this week in support of the $15 minimum wage mandate from a group calling itself “Patriotic Millionaires.” The commercial features twelve different speakers–all of whom earn or have a net worth in the seven figures–offering quick soundbites in support of a minimum wage increase.

The speakers include wealthy heirs to family fortunes, tech millionaires, media moguls, real estate investors, and finance types. The only one of the bunch who’s currently involved in the sort of low-margin business that would be hurt by a $15 minimum wage is Scott Nash, founder and CEO of Mom’s Organic Market.

But here’s the rub: Even Scott Nash doesn’t pay a starting wage of $15 an hour.

Nash explained last year that he pays an $11-an-hour starting wage at his stores; at his Washington, DC, location, he’s increased the starting pay level to $12.50 an hour. If Nash isn’t paying $15 at this own locations, why is the Patriotic Millionaires organization using him as a spokesperson for $15 in Portland?

It’s a question that Portland residents should keep in mind this weekend when they next see the out-of-town “Millionaires” appear on their TVs.