Oregon Gov. Kate Brown yesterday
announced her new plan to increase the state's minimum wage.
Under the governor's plan, increases would be phased in over six years, beginning in 2017. The end result? By 2022, the minimum wage would be $15.52 per hour inside the Portland Urban Growth Boundary, and $13.50 in the rest of the state.
Still looming are proposed initiatives for the 2016 general election ballot that would raise the benchmark wage to either $13.50 or $15 statewide, with a faster phase-in.
Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) announced that they will support the governor's plan when the Oregon Legislature meets in February.
However, business groups the governor consulted
announced on Thursday that they will oppose her final plan. Among these groups was the Oregon Association of Nurseries.
"When we sat down with the governor, we really hoped we could hammer out a compromise that would have kept the divisive ballot measures off the ballot," OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone said. "We acted as an advocate for agriculture and rural communities, but we brought a unique perspective to that, since OAN members are located in both rural and urban areas."
Oregon currently has the second highest minimum wage in the country. "The OAN and other business groups were willing to agree to a plan that would have delivered the highest minimum wage in America," Stone said. "The governor's plan goes beyond that and will end up costing jobs."
OAN President Leigh Geschwill of F & B Farms said there is great concern that increasing the minimum wage will widen the gap between what Oregon growers pay and what their out-of-state competitors pay in wages.
"This proposal, if adopted, will cause wage compression, which means the workers who deserve higher pay will make the same as the ones who don't," she said. "Further, it will force growers to take a hard look at automation, reducing headcount and reducing benefits. Some growers may even have to look at where they get their soil, plugs or pots, and possibly buy them out of state to hold down costs.
"When you consider the new sick leave requirements, it is a double whammy. When you add on the impact of the recent Port of Portland shutdown and our ability to move goods, the cumulative effect is that Oregon is becoming a very business unfriendly environment."
Although the effort to arrive at a minimum wage all could support was not successful, it was not for lack of effort on the part of business.
"We are disappointed that a more reasoned proposal was not put forward," Stone said. "Any proposal has to be good for all of Oregon and we made the case for the merits of a compromise, and it's unfortunate we could not complete that conversation with the governor."
OAN has been active on the issue of minimum wage. Below you will find copies of the testimony presented to the Oregon State Legislature by the association. The minimum wage proposal will be considered during the month long session which begins on February 1. Keep an eye out for action alerts to make your voice known.