Oregon Governor’s Minimum Wage Plan Isn’t Good Enough

Governor Kate Brown has released the details of her proposal for increasing Oregon’s minimum wage. According to an article just published by the Oregonian, “Brown’s plan would set two rates for Oregon. One would cover the Portland metro area, as defined by the region’s urban growth boundary, and top out at $15.52 an hour. The other would set a $13.50 minimum for the rest of the state.”

$15.52 per hour for the Portland metro region sounds really great. Hey, it’s even higher than we’ve been demanding! Unfortunately, the region’s minimum wage would not reach that level until January of 2022, a six year phase in. That is entirely too long. 3 years longer than what is proposed in IP 41, the ballot initiative being run by the Oregonians for 15 coalition. The cost of living in the Portland area has, in fact, already surpassed the $15 minimum wage level. Study after study shows this to be the case. $15.52 in six years is, to be perfectly frank, not fast enough and not good enough.

$13.50 for rural Oregon in six years is not fast enough, it’s not good enough. The Alliance for a Just Society already places the self-sufficiency wage for the entire state, including rural Oregon, at $15.99 per hour. According to a 2014 Oregon Department of Human Services study conducted by Oregon State University, the hourly wage needed for a single parent with one child to be able to afford fair market rate, small home-based childcare without being cost burdened is $15 per hour or more in all but four of Oregon’s counties.

Furthermore, the minimum wage preemption law that prevents cities and counties from raising their own minimum wage needs to be repealed. The law is undemocratic. It is a tool of right wing corporate lobby powerhouses like ALEC whose mission is to limit and  repeal the rights and the gains that have been won by working people around the nation.

So while we applaud Governor Brown for recognizing that the Portland area needs at least $15, we are compelled to state that this plan is not good enough. It phases in too slowly, and it doesn’t create a statewide minimum wage that ensures working families can be self-sufficient.

IP 41 increases the minimum wage to $15 across the state over a 3 year phase in, by 2019. The initiative recognizes that $15 is also needed outside of the Portland metro area, and it gets us there on much more reasonable timeline.

The Oregon Center for Public Policy has shown that Oregon has had minimum wage increases of this size and speed in the past. Twice actually. Once during the late 80s and early 90s when the minimum wage increased by 42% over two years, and once during the 1970s when the state minimum wage increased by 80% over a four year phase in. Both of these were equivalent in size IP 41’s 60% increase over 3 years, with the wage increasing an average of about 20% per year in all three cases. After both large increases during the mid 70’s and the late 80’s, Oregon’s economy and small businesses grew and thrived.