MEDFORD, Ore.– Businesses across Oregon are gearing up for the next minimum wage increase starting July 1. The standard wage rate will affect both Jackson and Josephine County where minimum wage will bump up from $10.25 to $10.75 an hour.
According to regional economists, unemployment rates in both counties are at historic lows as well and with more people in the workforce, many will see an increase in their paychecks. In Jackson County, over 7,000 workers are expected to be affected by the increase, with Josephine County seeing almost 3,000 affected.
However, businesses will be trying to work out ways to pay employees while keeping costs low for customers. One of the biggest sectors to deal with this will be restaurants and hospitality who hold nearly 43 percent of the minimum wage jobs in Jackson County.
“It certainly does create a challenge,” said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department. “But then at the same time, those folks earning minimum wage and just above, it helps their purchasing power and gives them more disposable income to spend in those businesses.”
One of the hardest markets to run in, restaurants will receive the brunt of this wage increase, as many already scramble to get by while providing an affordable cost to customers.
At Krusty’s in downtown Medford though, the owner has a philosophy.
“I just feel if you pay better than minimum wage, lot of times you get a lot better employee and so that’s kind of my concept,” said Bob Berg.
Berg, a small business owner, employees six people at his pizzeria and deli. Being at the same location on the corner of Grape and 8th Street for almost a decade, Berg has managed to retain most of his employees throughout that time. Even during his transition from his previous bakery and deli business to the pizzeria he owns today.
Right now, he starts every new employee off at $11. But as minimum wage increases, he’ll have to increase that starting salary. That means customers will likely see a small increase in prices, but Berg will look to save money elsewhere.
“We shop like crazy and people don’t realize how much time we have to spend shopping just to keep prices down,” he said. “Different suppliers and things and look for deals.”
Berg says that he sees it both ways, businesses need to make a living and employees too. Finding the right balance, especially as wages increase can be difficult.
“You don’t know what you’re gonna do today to the next day saleswise,” he said. “Most of my help, they know their basic schedule but it could change from today to tomorrow.”
Berg says that by no means is it an easy ride running a restaurant but he believes that providing the best for his employees will help his business in return.
“Other places will charge them – employees – half price for a meal and stuff. I don’t see that,” he said. “I feel, put it all out there, make them come back and the employees will love their job. and we try to have a fun environment.”