SearchHomeMenuSign UpDonate

State minimum wage edges higher

Statesman Journal
September 18, 2013By Peter Wong

About 100,000 Oregon workers, many of them in food services and retail trades, will get a 15-cent-per-hour pay increase to $9.10 on Jan. 1.

State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian announced the increase Tuesday. Under a law approved by voters in 2002, Oregon’s minimum wage is tied to annual growth in the Consumer Price Index, as are wages in eight other states.

For someone who works 30 hours per week, the increase will result in $234 more to spend each year. Avakian said that will amount to about $20 million more spread through the Oregon economy.

Many minimum-wage workers are part time, and are found in food services, hospitality and retail trades.

Chuck Sheketoff, the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy, said minimum-wage workers tend to spend their money almost immediately.

“The minimum wage increase gives thousands of workers extra dollars that they will spend at businesses in their communities,” said Sheketoff, whose think tank is based in Silverton.

But he also said that a minimum-wage worker with two or more children would still make less, at $18,928, than the 2013 federal poverty level of $19,530.

“No family with a full-time worker should be poor,” he said.

According to a report released Tuesday by the Oregon Employment Department, Oregon’s average wage in August was $22.36 per hour.

Although businesses have not attempted to roll back the 2002 ballot measure — Democrats would have been in a position to thwart such a move in the Legislature — they have resisted any state expansions of other employee benefits such as family medical leave or paid sick leave.

“With (federal) health care mandates, automatic wage increases at the first of the year, and now paid sick leave, the mixture will certainly create job losses,” said Bill Perry, vice president for governmental affairs of the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, which represents the state’s restaurants. “The question is: How many jobs will be lost?”

Paid sick leave was considered by an Oregon House committee on April 3, but drew other business opposition and did not advance. Only Connecticut has a statewide requirement, though Portland is among the cities that require it.

Oregon is one of 19 states and Washington, D.C., with minimum wages higher than the federal standard of $7.25 per hour. Washington state, which has the nation’s highest at $9.19 per hour, will adjust its minimum for inflation later this year.

Twenty-two states equal the federal minimum wage, four are below it, and five have no minimum. In the latter nine states, the federal amount prevails.

California is about to raise its state minimum wage in two stages from $8 to $10 by mid-2016. Lawmakers passed the increase last week, and Gov. Jerry Brown said he supports it, although he has not yet signed it.

Other states are moving to raise their minimum wages.

President Barack Obama has proposed to raise the federal minimum wage to $9, and some Democrats want to raise it to $10.10 by mid-2015. But neither proposal is likely to pass the House, which has a Republican majority.

But earlier this year, Avakian said Oregon’s experience over a decade showed that a minimum wage tied to an inflation index offers more certainty to businesses in projecting payroll expenses.

“Oregon’s successful experience with an indexed minimum wage should serve as a model for others looking to support their workforce and provide businesses with stable, predictable wage adjustments over time,” Avakian said in a statement.

Fair Use Policy

More about: boli