Today we filed a ballot measure that would increase Oregon’s statewide wage floor to $13.50 over two years and restore the power of cities and towns to set their own wages by ending preemption. The ballot measure would provide a self-sufficiency wage in Oregon’s rural counties, while allowing communities like Portland and Eugene to enact minimums that better reflect their cost of living.
“The Raise the Wage coalition remains committed to working with lawmakers to pass a bill in the February 2016 legislative session, and we believe it is their responsibility to do so,” said Andrea Paluso, executive director of Family Forward. “But one thing is clear: Oregonians need a raise in 2016. We are pursuing all possible avenues to victory, including filing this ballot measure should legislators fail to act during the February session.”
Oregon’s current minimum wage is not enough to live on. An Oregonian working full time for $9.25 an hour earns just $19,240 a year— not nearly enough to afford the basics like housing, food, and child care. Despite the myth that workers who make minimum wage are teenagers who live with their parents, research shows that the average minimum wage worker is a 35-year-old woman. In Oregon, women make up more than half of the minimum wage workforce.
“We’re here because the economic recovery of the last few years has been good for big business, but has left low-wage workers behind. Nearly half of the jobs added back since the recession have been in low-wage industries that don’t pay enough for workers to make ends meet,” said Meg Niemi, president of SEIU Local 49 and member of the Raise the Wage coalition. “We are asking hardworking Oregonians to do more with less, and it’s unacceptable. The time has come to take action to raise the wage to a level where families can be economically secure and start to save for the future.”
Despite increases in the cost of living, earlier this month the Bureau of Labor and Industries announced that Oregon’s minimum wage—currently just $9.25 an hour—will not increase in 2016 for the first time in five years. Meanwhile, inflation continues to outpace wages in almost every area of the state, as the cost of rent, medical care, transportation and food continue to climb.
The minimum wage of $13.50 an hour proposed in the ballot measure would provide a wage floor that enables workers in rural Oregon to afford housing, transportation and food. By lifting preemption, the ballot measure would also enable cities with higher costs-of-living, such as Portland, to pass higher local minimum wages that meet the needs of minimum wage earners in those communities.
“When I first started working at a fast food restaurant six years ago, I thought it would be temporary until I found something better. I am still there today, making less than $10 an hour as an entry-level manager,” said Jason Nance, a fast food manager. “I’d like to start a family, but right now I am not financially stable enough. If my wages went up, I would be able to pay my student loans instead of avoiding them—right now I am about $17,000 in debt. I would be able to buy new shoes and clothes for work.”
Studies show that low-wage workers would put every dollar they earn and more back into the local economy if they were given a raise. Raising the minimum wage to $13.50 will benefit half a million hardworking Oregonians and their families. It will also provide a boost to businesses by adding $3.2 billion in new cash to the Oregon economy.
“The concept behind raising the wage is simple: one business’s employee is another’s customer. More money in the pockets of more employees means more paying customers for small businesses and more money being spent in our local economy,” said Shaun Seiren, owner of Biddy McGraw’s Public House in Portland. “As a business owner, it is clear to me that raising Oregon’s minimum wage is critical to strengthening our local economy and creating an environment that supports small businesses and entrepreneurs. Raising the wage is the right thing to do―for workers, for businesses, and for all of us.”
Join us in the effort to raise the wage and take the pledge today.