A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

What happened to ‘equal pay’?

Written February 19th, 2016 by Hasso Hering
The wage bill will get its final approval and signature here.

The wage bill will get its final approval and signature here.

“Nor shall any State… deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” My question may be overly naïve, but how does the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment allow Oregon to treat wage earners and employers as unequally as the Democrats in the Capitol are doing with Senate Bill 1532?

And while I’m being so simple-minded as to read constitutions expecting them to mean what the words seem to say, how about Section 20 of the Oregon Bill of Rights? “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”

The wage bill just passed in Salem sets up three tiers of minimum wages. Now the minimum is $9.25 an hour everywhere in Oregon. The new law says that by 2022, someone doing a job must be paid at least $14.75 in Portland, $13.50 in Linn and several other semirural counties, and $12.50 in Douglas and some other rural counties. How is that an equality of privileges?

Or, looked at the other way, employers in Portland will be forced by law to pay people a starting pay 18 percent higher than paid by employers elsewhere for the very same job. Does that sound like equality before the law, as both the state and federal constitutions require?

Well, you say, it may not be equal, but there are lots of regional inequalities, in the tax burden, for instance. But those are the result of local laws. As far as the federal and state tax schemes are concerned, everybody pays under the same laws. We don’t have a federal tax for Vermont that is different from one in California. And your state income tax is not more or less in Ashland than it is in Portland, if your income and deductions are otherwise the same.

Inequality is not the biggest problem with the wage bill. Its likely effect in strangling small employers, killing jobs, and fostering poverty is worse. But let’s not forget how important it is for citizens to be treated the same under the law. (hh)

8 responses to “What happened to ‘equal pay’?”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Yes, you seem to suffer under the old-fashioned notion that words actually mean what they say.

    When words in foundational documents like constitutions do not serve the political outcome desired, the progressive thing to do is change the meaning of the words.

    The only thing that matters is political outcome. It’s been this way for what…70 years or so now? Get with the times….

  2. Pat Quinn says:

    As I stated in a post on Facebook earlier, “let the lawsuits begin,” they always do.

  3. Richard Vannice says:

    The Democrats are ruling in Salem so they do for the counties that are predominately Democrat – easy enough to explain.

  4. centrist says:

    Hmm. Hearing a decidedly socialist vibe toady. Not sure the conflation will survive thoughtful review, but it’s worth a try.
    As far as the various constitutions go, they were not divinely inspired as some folks have come to believe. They were constructed by broad-thinking humans intent on providing the greatest good with the least evil. These humans had heated discussions that involved regional points of view. The product of those discussions became the Constitution, phrased in the language of the day.
    By the way, Gordon, the meaning of phrases and idioms evolve with the needs of the speakers. Scalia tried to keep the original intent in mind while having a current-world opinion.
    Interesting that Gordon uses 70 years as a time reference for change. That’s about the time that folks who had sweat and bled to protect the country from real tyranny came home, Their experiences (as well as the experiences of those who backed them from “home”) caused a social upheaval. If you consider that progressive, then I pity your world.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      First, I challenge you to use your real name. Your comments lose credibility hiding behind a pseudonym.

      Second, in terms of identifying a time reference for change, it may be more accurate to say that we lost our way 95-100 years ago. Clearly the FDR years elevated the progressive movement, but most of those ideas were planted during the Wilson regime. You can’t deny history.

      Finally, your use of the word “evolving” is revealing. The meaning of the words in constitutions don’t “evolve,” The words mean what they say. “Evolve” is simply a euphemism used by progressives to distract us from what is really at work – achieving a political outcome. You are part of the problem if you think this way.

      • centrist says:

        The nom de plume fits my current philosophy. It stands as does my credibility. I need not your permission for its use.
        The FDR-era years and the Wilson-years were dark times for the US population. One purpose of government is to provide the greatest good with the least evil. If what you call “progressivism” accomplished stabilizing and improving the condition of the population, then I can’t categorically oppose it. What I can’t accept is the mean-spiritedness of folks now being classed as “regressive.”
        Language does indeed evolve. The US constitution was constructed in the language of the day after much negotiation and compromise. The commentaries on intent are voluminous.
        It seems that “evolve” to you is a trigger word tied to a political agenda. Since it is not “rightspeak” it is abomination.
        I cannot share your philosophy. It’s the nature of our form of government for like-minded people to gather together and pursue a political outcome. If you disagree, you have three choices — accept, work for change, or leave. The choice is yours

  5. Roger says:

    Hasso, I agree with your analysis. I suspect that legislative counsel agrees with your analysis as well. I hope that if and when these court cases go against the State, that they will agree to make all legal correspondence they got on the issue a matter of public record. They were told a month ago that this was unconstitutional, and they have ignored it. Reckless!

  6. Mandy Stam Productions says:

    Most have. Just not in Grand Rapids. See, you can market us as modern and progressive all you want, but the people here will give that charade away every time.



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