The Basic Facts

1. Why $15?

$15 an hour is the baseline for a living wage that allows hardworking Oregonians the dignity of feeding and housing their families without government help (Alliance for a Just Society, 2015). We support a living wage of no less than $15 an hour for every worker in our state, with a three-year phase-in to give small businesses time to adjust. If necessary, we’ll take the issue to the ballot. We’re determined to make sure no one who works lives in poverty.

2. Won’t raising the minimum wage hurt small businesses?

In short, no. Small businesses thrive and grow faster in states with higher minimum wages (Center for American Progress, 2006). Business failure rates are lower in the years after minimum wage increases, and higher wage increases correlate with lower failure rates than do lower wage increases (Waltman, McBride, & Camhout, 1998). When workers have more money to spend, they spend more money locally, and small businesses benefit from that.

3. Won’t people lose their jobs if we raise the minimum wage?

Ever since the first federal minimum wage was established, people have said that raising the minimum wage will lead to job losses. This is a persistent myth based in fear, not facts. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, states that raise their minimum wages have stronger job growth than states that do not (2014), and the relationship between raising the minimum wage and unemployment is statistically insignificant (2013). The small business coalition Main Street Alliance of Oregon has endorsed a $15 minimum wage.

4. Won’t prices go up if we raise the minimum wage?

Labor costs are just one of many factors in pricing, including competitiveness and profitability. Price increases are a built-in fact of our economy because every business wants to increase profit, and as a result prices go up even when wages don’t, as has been the case for more than three decades (Wolff, 2013). Economist Robert Reich (2014) says a $15 minimum wage is unlikely to result in significantly higher prices because most affected businesses are in intense competition for customers and would sooner reduce profits than increase prices.

5. Won’t families lose their state benefits if we raise the minimum wage?

The problem of the so-called benefits cliff, where working families lose more in benefits than they gain in wages, has been grossly overstated. Data from the Oregon Legislative Revenue Office (2014) shows that unlike $11, $12 or $13, $15 an hour is enough to prevent working families from falling off the benefits cliff. In 2013, 197,000 low-wage workers received public assistance, but another 300,000 did not. For them, the benefits cliff does not exist in any way.

6. Why should we reward people for not working hard?

Many people believe that low-wage workers are lazy, but nothing could be further from the truth. Over half a million hardworking Oregonians are paid less than a living wage, and many work more than full-time hours to make ends meet (University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center, 2014). A raise to $15 an hour will lift them out of poverty. Besides, 95 percent of income gains from the economic recovery have gone to the wealthiest one percent (Economic Policy Institute, 2014). The facts show that we don’t live in a meritocracy.

7. Low-wage jobs aren’t supposed to be careers. Why not get a better job?

Hard work isn’t enough to get ahead when there’s a lack of opportunity. In Oregon, nearly half of new jobs pay less than a living wage, and there are nine job-seekers for every available living-wage job (Alliance for a Just Society, 2015). In any case, our communities need people to clean, cook, wait tables, and do other low-prestige work. All workers should have the dignity of earning enough income to provide for their families without government help.

8. How does raising the minimum wage affect people already earning more?

Raising the minimum wage creates a “ripple effect” that raises wages for everyone, not just low-wage workers (Brookings Institution, 2014). Additionally, government help for low-wage workers costs Oregon taxpayers $1.7 billion annually (University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center, 2014), and a raise to $15 will reduce the need for that help. Our communities will all benefit from lifting hundreds of thousands of Oregonians out of poverty.

9. Isn’t $15 too much for rural Oregon? Why not just raise it for the cities?

$15 an hour is the baseline for a living wage in all Oregon, not just urban areas (Alliance for a Just Society, 2015). Cities like Portland and Eugene should be allowed to have higher minimum wages to cover their cost of living, but our statewide “pre-emption” law forbids that. 15 Now Oregon firmly supports a living wage of at least $15 for all the workers in our state.

10. What about [other social, economic, or political problem]?

There are many problems in our world, and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is not a cure-all. It will, however, lift over half a million hardworking Oregonians out of poverty and allow them the dignity of feeding and housing their families without government help. Other problems are important too, but that shouldn’t stop you from supporting $15 for Oregon.


End Poverty Wages