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House to vote on higher Oregon minimum wage

Posted By Beth Farmer, Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A bill to increase Oregon’s minimum wage is expected to come before the full Oregon House of Representatives for a vote soon — most likely, next Monday.

This past Monday, the House Business and Labor Committee moved Senate Bill 1532 forward on a party-line vote, 6-5. The bill would hike the benchmark wage over the next six years to $14.75 inside Portland's Urban Growth Boundary; $13.50 in a middle tier of counties mostly in Western Oregon, and $12.50 in the remaining counties, mostly in Eastern Oregon. (See the fact sheet (PDF) for a breakdown by year and by county.)

OAN President Leigh Geschwill, co-owner of F & B Farms and Nursery, testified against the bill (PDF) as part of an invited panel.

“This current bill before you does not acknowledge the economic reality in this state for the agricultural businesses I represent, which is why we must oppose it,” she said. Geschwill went on to say that it’s difficult for growers to pass costs on to buyers.

“Under our current CPI model, we have been able to incorporate reasonable increases in labor costs (on average 2.28 percent) into our pricing,” she said. “But under current proposals, my members would see a jump in base labor costs of 5.5 percent every year for the next seven years — even more for farms inside the Urban Growth Boundary.”

Several other nursery growers also testified against the bill, including Kevin Spada of A & R Spada Farms. “As our business exists right now, we cannot afford the increased costs that would results from increasing the minimum wage in the manner you are discussing,” he testified (PDF). “Not only would the wages of the unskilled labor be increased, but all of our employees who already earn above minimum wage would require a corresponding wage increase; thus, the true cost of this bill is even more staggering than the enormous cost that we see with the direct impact on minimum wage rates.

It was said that the remarks by both Geschwill and Spada were well received, but any opposition to the minimum wage increase faces a strong headwind. If the bill passes the House, Gov. Kate Brown has indicated she will sign it.

With the house vote coming up very soon, OAN members are urged to contact their representative (click here to find your legislator) and offer input. Please identify yourself and your business and state your views on the minimum wage increase, and thank your representative for taking your views into consideration.

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