ORLA Advocacy: Seeking Smarter Approaches
The debate over minimum wage has been front and center in the media this past year, both nationally and in Oregon. In March of 2016, Governor Kate Brown signed into law a new 7-year minimum wage escalation plan for Oregon with the first of seven minimum wage increases effective July 1, 2016. The plan includes 3 regions with different escalation methodologies over the course of those seven years.
Oregon is above the national average in unemployment rates, and for minor-aged workers, it’s even higher. While the rhetoric swirls on all sides of the minimum wage discussion, raising the minimum wage actually gives little buying power. Rather, it creates a reduction in available hours among lower skilled workers, and the goods and services they use increase in cost.
Research shows that raising the minimum wage hurts the least-skilled and least-experienced jobseekers the most. Read more about how raising the minimum wage hurts the least-skilled and least-experienced jobseekers the most. Additionally, watch The Real Faces of the 'Fight for $15' on YouTube.
Boosting Employment Opportunities for Younger Workers
Oregon added tens of thousands of new jobs while recovering from the Great Recession of the 21st Century, but recent job growth completely overlooked younger workers. There were actually fewer workers from the age group 14 to 21 years in 2012 than in 2010, according to a study done by the Oregon Employment Division entitled “Endangered: Youth in the Labor Force.” Yet studies have consistently shown that when teenagers enter the job market earlier in life, their earning potential increases over their lifespan.
Additional increases in the minimum wage, over and above current indexing, will create employee management concerns and potential pricing increases in the very industries that have long been training grounds for employees newly entering the workforce.
Compromise and Economic Strength is the Answer
If backers of higher minimum wages want to help those living solely on minimum wage, they should address the issue through the legislative process and work towards meaningful compromise. There are provisions in the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and in more than 40 states currently, that would help businesses manage their hours through the consideration of tipped employees and minor-aged workers.
Most people listed as minimum wage workers in Oregon are either tipped employees making and reporting over $20 per hour in combined income, or are minors who live with their parents and are gaining much-needed work experience.
If the legislature worked in concert with Oregon’s business community to grow the economy, all citizens would benefit. The focus needs to be on income growth and job creation through a prosperous economy; that’s how government benefits too through increased revenues and lower unemployment.
ORLA’s Policy on Minimum Wage
The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA) supports efforts to remove the annual indexing, or at the least add language that considers economic factors like unemployment rates. ORLA is opposed to any increases in the minimum wage that do not take into account the factors of entry level workers or tipped employees.
For more information, see Oregon's Minimum Wage Escalation Plan.