Farmers plan to absorb wage increase

Herald and News (Klamath Falls)
January 5, 2012

The cost of labor, a major expense for producers, is increasing in Oregon. Or, depending on your point of view, the lowest-paid workers are getting a pay increase on par with the cost of living.

Oregon's minimum wage increased from $8.50 to $8.80 Jan. 1. It's the second highest minimum wage in the county, behind only Washington state.

For a full-time employee making minimum wage, the increase represents an annual pay increase of $624. For employers it means that much more in expenses.

Producers say the increase is an added expense they can't pass on to customers.

"Our prices our dictated to us, so we have to absorb all that," said local farmer Bob Flowers about the 30-cent increase. Flowers is president of the Klamath-Lake Counties Farm Bureau.

Others say the minimum wage is an important tool to ensure the lowest-paid workers can make a fair living.

"That's what it's designed to do: make sure the lowest wage people don't fall behind," said Chuck Sheketoff, executive director of the Oregon Public Policy Center, about the increase. "And it's a very modest increase."

Oregon's minimum wage is tied to the Consumer Price Index. It has increased every year except 2010 since a 2002 law tied it to the CPI.

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