Two ballot measure proposals aim to raise the minimum wage in Oregon. One would gradually increase it to $13.50 by the year 2018, the other would increase it to $15 an hour by 2019. In a two part special report you’ll see only on NBC5news, we examine the impact a higher minimum wage would have on both workers and the economy, and the arguments for and against it are spirited.
Rozeana Bowman is a wife, a mother of three, and a longtime minimum wage worker.
“I always needed to work, my husband’s income was not enough,” Bowman says.
She’s one of 100,000 people– about 6% of oregon’s work force– making $9.25 an hour in Oregon. That’s the second highest state minimum wage in the country.
“A lot of food service jobs, food preparation, fast food cooks, dish washers, bartenders,” Oregon Employment Department Regional Economist Guy Tauer says.
Taur says a majority of minimum wage jobs fall under these three industries: leisure and hospitality, retail trade, and natural resources and mining. If the minimum wage were to increase to $15, that would impact about 40% of Oregon workers.
“Certainly would be a benefit to workers, and an added cost to businesses.”
Businesses like Bobbio’s Pizza, where owner Rick Deates employs about 3 dozen people. Deates says a minimum wage increase that significant will mean big changes for customers, and employees.
“I’ve looked at a lot of things,” Deates says, “obviously raising menu prices which you’ll probably be able to do a little bit because everyone will have to do it, but cutting labor out.”
Deates says he has trouble filling positions as is.
“One guy asked me what the hourly wage was and how many hours a week and I told him and he said ‘I already collect that from the state why would I want to go to work?'”
“So nobody wants to go to work, and now they just want more money, it’s very frustrating to the small business owner.”
But Rozeana hopes higher wages will help workers like her finally get ahead.
“I would love to see an improvement on wages but then you also have the questions.”
Those questions include if prices will go up to compensate for the added cost of labor, and if people will lose their jobs as a result. Click HERE for part 2 of Raising Oregon’s Minimum Wage.