Getting the Raise They Deserved

March 12, 2001 Download PDF

The Success of Oregon's Minimum Wage and the Need for Reform

Executive Summary

The successful 1996 initiative to increase Oregon's minimum wage to $6.50 brought much-needed raises to thousands of low-wage workers across the state, without harming their employment opportunities. The beneficiaries of the increase were primarily from low-income households, and were disproportionately female and minority with low levels of education.

Following the implementation of the final phase of the minimum wage increase in January 1999, the positive wage impacts began to fade. As the value of Oregon's minimum wage began to be eroded by inflation, real wages for low-paid workers also started falling again.

Data analyzed for this study reveal that:

Legislation has been introduced in the Oregon Legislative Assembly that would prevent the value of the minimum wage from declining. House Bill 2786 follows the lead of Washington State and indexes the minimum wage to inflation. The bill restores purchasing power lost since January 1999, and would annually adjust the minimum wage to keep pace with rising prices. If enacted, HB 2786 is estimated to raise Oregon's minimum wage to $7.03 on January 1, 2002.

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