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New Seasons and Other Businesses Push for Higher Minimum Wage

New Seasons Market announced that it will raise the minimum starting wage at all of its stores to $12 per hour in January 2016, a $2 increase from their current base pay of $10 per hour. ¿Por Qué No? Taqueria in Portland also announced that they are raising their minimum wage to $12.50 in January 2016, and will increase that to $15 by 2021.

According to a press release sent out yesterday, New Seasons is working with a number of other businesses to call “for state elected leaders to take action in 2016 on a minimum wage policy that meets the needs of Oregon’s diverse communities.” Among those other businesses are Grand Central Bakery, HOTLIPS Pizza, Looptworks, Neil Kelly, ¿Por Qué No?, The Joinery, Better World Club, Morel Ink, Chef’s Table, FMYI, and Grain & Gristle.

New Season’s CEO Wendy Collie stated, “The wage that supports self-sufficiency in urban areas such as Portland could be $15 per hour, while the differences in cost of living in rural communities could make the same wage unsustainable.”

We applaud New Seasons and these other businesses for committing to raising wages, for actively supporting the work to change state policy on the minimum wage, and for recognizing the need for $15 in Portland.  However, while we agree that Oregon communities are diverse in terms of cost of living, we wish to emphasize that $15 is not just what is needed in Portland, but rather what is need throughout our entire state.

In Portland, the number that allows for self-sufficiency for a single parent is closer to $23 per hour, while at least half to all of Oregon’s counties need at least $15 in order for families to attain self-sufficiency.

According to the Alliance for a Just Society’s Job Gap 2015 report, for example, $15.96 is what a single individual with no kids needs to earn throughout the State of Oregon, even the rural areas, in order to attain self-sufficiency and have enough to save for emergencies. According to the same study, a single parent in Oregon needs to earn $23.74, while a single parent with two children needs more than $30 per hour.

The University of Washington’s Self-Sufficiency Standard for Oregon shows that in half of Oregon’s counties, a single-parent needs at least $15 to be self-sufficient, while that number is more than $20 per hour in 7 Oregon counties.

A new Living Wage Calculator by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that a single parent with one child in Oregon rural counties needs at least $21 per hour in order to be self-sufficient, while in a dozen counties including Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Columbia, Lane, Deschutes, Benton, Yamhill, Hood River, Josephine, Jackson, and Curry a single parent needs closer to $23 per hour. None of these studies takes any student debt or credit card debt into account.

Perhaps even more important, research by the Oregon Center for Public Policy shows that an increase in the statewide minimum wage that similar in proportion to the increase from $9.25 to $15 has been done successfully in Oregon before. In addition, the state’s economy—including new small business and job growth—did well in the next decades. So it is clear that not only do rural Oregon’s working people need $15, but Oregon’s economy can and will thrive with a $15 minimum wage.

We agree that Portland needs at least $15, and we believe that the minimum wage preemption law, ORS 652.017, needs to be repealed to restore local control over minimum wage laws. But at least $15 is also needed in rural Oregon. And so we applaud New Seasons and these other businesses for raising wages and for supporting a statewide increase in the minimum wage, while at the same time we urge them to consider that the whole State of Oregon needs a $15 minimum wage, and to join us in the fight to make that happen.