Minimum-wage hike would help workers and businesses (OPINION)
By Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson and Rep. Jennifer Williamson
For working families on the lowest rungs of the pay ladder in Oregon, the discussion in Salem about raising our minimum wage isn’t just a policy debate — it’s about economic survival and putting food on the table for their families.
That’s why it’s important to look at key facts that have emerged about how an increase will benefit many low-wage workers we represent while giving an important boost to our state’s economy:
First, our current minimum wage of $9.25 per hour ($19,240 a year for a full-time worker) isn’t enough to get by on, let alone to get ahead, support a family, send a child to college and save for the future.
We hear the stories all the time from women in our communities who are living in poverty despite the fact that they work full-time. In 2013, women made up 60 percent of minimum wage workers in the state. In Oregon, 54 percent of single mothers are earning less than $25,000 in annual income – meaning they are struggling just to provide the basics for their children.
A higher minimum wage will put needed money in the pockets of our lowest-wage workers, giving them, and their children, the opportunity to get ahead. That financial freedom will reduce the state’s safety net costs as more people move to self-sufficiency. It’s a win-win.
Second, a higher minimum wage is one of the best things we can do to strengthen the Oregon economy. America’s wealthiest corporations and their highly paid lobbyists may not want the facts to get out, but it doesn’t change the economic reality for our communities and neighborhoods.
When low-wage earners have more money in their pockets, they spend it on necessities at other local businesses, which, in turn, helps those businesses succeed. In fact, our neighborhood businesses from Hazelwood to downtown depend on people having enough money in their pockets to spend at local establishments like the dentist, the grocery store, the bakery down the street or the corner coffee shop.
Recent research plainly shows that increasing the minimum wage does not result in job loss or reductions in hours in low-wage industries (sectors like retail, health care services and business administration where our economy is seeing a lot of its growth). In fact, when workers are paid more, these businesses benefit from cost savings associated with reduced turnover, less absenteeism and improved performance.
The truth is: When women and working families can’t afford the basics, our economy stalls. Raising Oregon’s minimum wage is the right thing to do for the hard-working parents we represent who are struggling to make ends meet, for their children, their local neighborhoods and businesses who depend on them and our state’s economy as a whole.
Raising Oregon’s minimum wage will help raise up the working families we represent and secure a better economic future for our entire state.
Democrats Jessica Vega Pederson and Jennifer Williamson represent Districts 47 and 36, respectively, in the Oregon House of Representatives.