Oregon passes bill to raise minimum wage
The controversial and hotly debated topic of raising the minimum wage in Oregon has people on both sides of the issue equally fired up. A survey conducted by Oregon Public Broadcasting found 48% of Oregonians were for the bill, while 46% were against it.
On one side, low- to middle-income earners reason that the minimum wage is not actually a living wage, while business owners on the other side of the fence say that they would not be able to pay a higher minimum wage and would be forced to make one of two decisions: Either raise the price of goods and services, or eventually as profits dwindle, close up shop.
Just this month, Oregon governor Kate Brown signed a bill into law that would significantly raise the minimum wage by 2022. Oregon would overcome the disparity between urban and rural areas by implementing three different levels of minimum wage: $12.50 for rural areas, $13.50 for mid-sized counties, and $14.75 for its largest city, Portland. Oregon’s current minimum wage is $9.25.
Read more: Should the minimum wage be raised?
Those in favor
Oregon has long been sensitive to adjust wages in lieu of inflation. The minimum wage was raised 42% over 18 months in 1998.
Gordon Lafter, political economist and associate professor at the University of Oregon told The Guardian that in decades of research, there still has been no association between a higher minimum wage and increased unemployment.
Furthermore, Juan Carlos Ordóñez, communications director at the Oregon Center of Public Policy (OCPP) says, ‘There’s a substantial body of research that shows minimum wage increases have had little or no impact on jobs, either positive or negative.’
But still, especially for small business owners and industries that would be the hardest hit, such as farmers, the reality is much less cut and dry.
One of the biggest organizations against the bill, the Oregon Farm Bureau, argued that Oregon’s labor-intensive produce would eventually be eliminated, leading to layoffs.
Small mom and pop shops say they would be the hardest hit. Owner of Posies Bakery & Cafe Jessie Burke told The Guardian that the government tends to treat small businesses like large businesses, but because they are so small, they would not be able to withstand such changes.
‘When wages go up, prices have to go up. There’s no margin to absorb that cost,’ she said.
Katrina Scotto di Carlo of Supportland, a rewards network of small businesses in Portland lamented, ‘small businesses generally lack the resources to protect themselves through this transition.’ In her mind, if one small business fails due to the increase, then ‘Oregon has failed that community,’ she said.
What’s the solution?
Wage inequality is a complex topic that doesn’t have a single solution. As we’ve seen the wealthy get wealthier and the middle class shrink especially over the last five years, this has left many people wondering, ‘How can we resolve this?’
One important component Clark mentioned is the need for each of us to have a mindset of lifelong learning. With technology moving so swiftly, learning and sharpening your skill set is essential for staying gainfully employed. No matter what you’re doing — even if you went to college — if you want to stay competitive in the job market, you have to keep your job skills sharp and keep learning new things.
But what is known now is that it is essential for the people of Oregon to work together so that nobody — either a person making minimum wage or a business owner trying to keep afloat — falls by the wayside.
Want career advice for your next job move? See our Jobs section.