Oregon increasing minimum wage across state

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Increase will occur over period of time

This summer marks the beginning of a six-year plan to increase the minimum wage in the state of Oregon approved by the state House of Representatives and Senate earlier this year.

In order to implement this increase, the state of Oregon has been divided into three categories according to location, population and other factors. All of the categories share the same starting point—the current state minimum wage of $9.25—but will have different end wages. The three categories are the Portland urban growth boundary, the base or “valley” category, which includes Corvallis and non-urban communities. The final minimum wage for each zone will be $14.75, $13.50 and $12.50 respectively by the year 2022.

The first step in this series of increases will be on July 1, taking the minimum wage from $9.25 to $9.50 in non-urban communities and $9.75 in the base and Portland urban growth boundary categories.

According to Representative Susan McLain, this action was a long time coming. Bills to increase the state minimum wage have been proposed, discussed and ultimately rejected in the past few years. Finally, this bill was approved earlier this year and Governor Kate Brown approved and signed it just earlier this month.

Part of the reason that this bill was ultimately approved was that, unlike previous efforts at a flat increase across the entire state, this bill takes a new approach by dividing the state into these different categories. This bill, according to McLain, does a better job of addressing the differences among communities and helps them to adjust as they need to.

“When you have a bill like this, there’s a situation where you try to hear everybody and you try to make sure that it works best for workers and businesses,” McLain said.

Developing and passing this bill, according to McLain, has focused heavily on compromise and incorporating the needs of businesses large and small, workers and families.

According to McLain, one of the major motivations for approving this bill was the prevalence of poverty across the state. Approximately 200,000 Oregonians must use public assistance programs to help secure their basic needs such as food and rent. McLain and her colleagues hope that this increase in minimum wage will help hard-working Oregonians and their families.

“When one in five of your children are living in poverty, that seems pretty immense to me,” McLain said.

Furthermore, according to McLain, there were concerns related to the equity of pay in the state of Oregon. Right now, approximately two thirds of Oregonian minimum wage employees are women, many of which support families. Additionally, according to McLain, approximately one in five minimum wage workers are people of color.

Corvallis falls into the

According to Steve Clark, vice president of university relations and marketing at OSU, the effect that this increase will have on the OSU community and students has yet to be determined.

“Going forward, we have some really difficult choices to make,” Clark said.

According to Clark, OSU has 7,818 active student employee positions. Of the 7,818 positions, 4,120 of them currently pay less than the soon to be implemented $9.75.

According to Clark, the first of these increases is projected to cost the university an additional $38,340 per week, amounting to a total of $1.15 million in the first year—assuming a 30-week work year for student employees.

Additionally, there are student employees who work on OSU’s other campuses and facilities like the Cascades campus and the Hatfield marine science center. When the minimum wage increases take effect, the university will have to decide if employees at these different locations will be awarded the local minimum wage or the Corvallis minimum wage.

However, there remains some skepticism from businesses and from Oregonian citizens.

Samantha Holman, a sophomore studying electrical and computer engineering and a former minimum wage employee, expressed concern about unforeseen consequences of the bill.

“It sounds good at first glance, but I’m not sure about it in the grand scheme of things,” Holman said.

According to Holman, the job helps her to pay for her car and textbooks. Additionally, Holman said that working in minimum wage positions has given her reason and motivation to make the most out of her education.

Holman believes that increasing the minimum wage could result in increased prices on many goods and could put minimum wage workers back where they started.

“I think the heart behind the bill is nice, I just don’t know how it will pan out,” Holman said. “I hope that (… ) with all of their experience, what they’re trying to achieve is attainable.”

In the future, McLain hopes to see continued compromise and adjustments to the bill as needed. For the meantime, she expressed confidence in Oregon’s ability to adjust.

“I feel that the bill does what we suggested was the basic goal, which is to give hard-working Oregonians a boost,” McLain said.

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