A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

$30/hour would be twice as good

Written January 14th, 2016 by Hasso Hering
These are inanimate, but inside the Capitol they're beavering away for higher pay.

These are inanimate, but inside the Capitol they’re beavering away for higher pay.

If Democratic lawmakers, initiative sponsors and the governor all think they can force employers to pay higher wages, why do they settle for half-measures? Why don’t they just go ahead and require that everybody with a job be paid, say, $20 an hour, or $30 for an even better deal?

Well, you say, they don’t do that because it would be economically impossible. It would destroy many businesses and should not be done. That would be the correct answer. But the promoters of increasing the minimum wage don’t care about the effect on business, at least not much. Gov. Kate Brown, for example, has just called for wage increases in Portland higher than in the rest of the state. Her reasoning: It costs more to live in Portland.

It’s probably true that some things, housing for instance, are more expensive in Portland than in less densely populated parts. But if we’re going to base the wage laws on what people need to live some place, then we had better take additional steps. Somebody who lives in an expensive condo then could by law demand more pay than someone who has the same job but lives rent-free with her parents. Somebody with child-support obligations would have to bet a bigger salary than somebody who does not.

What we should say instead is “Here’s what this job pays. If that’s too low, don’t take it and seek a better one.”

The governor’s proposal would raise the Oregon minimum wage in stages from $9.25 an hour now to $15.52 in Portland and to $13.50 everywhere else by 2022. Various pending initiative proposals would shoot for similar amounts faster, without the difference in geography.

None of them consider that somebody has to pay those wages and employers who can’t afford to do so will have to close up or move. Or replace employees with machines. The state wants to guarantee workers a certain income. That would be great if only it would also guarantee employers that they can pay the required wages without going broke. (hh)

4 responses to “$30/hour would be twice as good”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Clearly you lack what our governor has in abundance – liberal compassion.

    It doesn’t matter that raising the minimum wage is a bad idea or would hurt young folks, part-time workers, and small employers. Also, this raise will probably make worse the state’s already abysmal high school dropout rate.

    But ignore these concerns. Government is great at managing the economy and our personal lives. This policy is about creating happiness. This policy certainly makes the gov feel good about herself. You should feel happy too, comrade.

  2. Shawn Dawson says:

    I have been listening to Portland radio about the housing situation. It’s terrible. I just checked on Zillow, a 483 square foot studio (the smallest space a person could rent) (22×22) listsfor $1350 / month.

    State minimum wage is $9.25. If one could find 40 hour a week work (which most minimum wage workers can not with a single job, but let’s assume they find two 20 hour/week jobs), then 40 hr x 9.25/hr x 4 weeks in a month = $1480 (before social security, medicare, and other taxes) — far from enough to cover rent, let alone have money for food, the bus, and health insurance.

    There is a huge problem here, at this point, it can be more attractive for a person to be homeless in Portland than to work at minimum wage. One could be homeless and panhandle and have more money in one’s pocket than working 40 hours a week and living in a studio.

    The facts on the ground — that Oregon has a high drop out rate, that some folks are not mentally capable of getting a college education, that they may not be capable of learning a trade, means that we will always have a large pool of the work force that can not do better than minimum wage.

    It’s easy to complain about government over-reach with a $15 minimum wage (or any minimum wage for that matter). But if one does this and does not come up with alternatives to address the situation of housing affordability then one falls short.

    I have a few thoughts on the matter. I’ll outline one here, which is derived from what we have done in the past (especially after WWII, when there was a housing shortage), and what has been done in the military as well.

    Proposal: housing community which folks must pay for (not subsidized by taxpayers), and which provides 1) a simple bed 2) shower facilities, 3) kitchen facilities, 4) laundry facilities. And that is it. Think big open floors with rows of beds and a trunk — ala barracks.

    Residents would have to abide by the rules (lights out, loudness, no drugs or alcohol) and would have to participate in the upkeep (cleaning) of the facilities as well. Would be segregated by gender.

    This is not a shelter (paid for by the city, state, or other taxes), it borrows some ideas from Oxford house type settings, but is not a post-prison or drug rehab type setting. Although I am sure ex-inmates would become part of the population, as they often work minimum wage, are homeless, and have trouble qualifying for other housing.

    Cost should be around $200/month (1.5 weeks pay at minimum wage).

    For folks with kids, there would have to be something a bit different, not sure what just yet. But the above could work for single folks who want to work,

    BTW, after WWII, I have read articles about military style housing (think round, small, metal houses) that was setup for families and couples in L.A. It worked there as, there was a lot of land available. It would not work so well in Portland with limited land, but could work in other places.


    P.S. I see we have new ‘submit comment’ puzzles, clever.

  3. Richard Vannice says:

    How about $43.00 an hour as one part time consultant for GAPS is receiving (15 Jan 1016 DH pg A3 – corrections)

  4. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Since the gov is clearly unconcerned about economic impacts, I prefer a minimum wage comparable to our city manager’s pay – about $70/hour with another 14% going into deferred compensation and a fat retirement check as icing on the cake.

    On July 1, 2016 when the city manager starts double dipping, we the taxpayers will be forking over at least $250,000 for the final year of his services. Unless the city council comes to its senses, of course, But that won’t happen.

    If we’re going to put our Gov Brown blinders on, let’s really solve this problem.


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