Momentum Builds for OR Minimum-Wage Hike

     PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek announced plans to push for a significant increase in the state minimum wage, to $13.50 by 2018.
     Kotek called the proposal one of her top priorities for the February legislative session. During the last session, Kotek pushed for a $13-per-hour minimum wage. That effort fizzled, leaving Oregon’s minimum wage at $9.25 per hour.
     Kotek’s plan would increase the state minimum gradually, until it hits $13.50 in 2018. The plan would also let individual cities increase the minimum beyond that, to adjust for variations in the cost of living across the state.
     Movement on the issue is heating up from various angles.
     The Raise the Wage coalition – headed by Oregon’s largest labor group, the Oregon AFL-CIO – announced plans to push state leaders to adopt the wage hike.
     Another Oregon group, 15 Now Oregon, is about to start gathering signatures for a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
     Kotek said raising Oregon’s minimum wage was a step toward economic fairness.
     “Right now, hundreds of thousands of Oregonians are working hard, playing by the rules, and yet they still struggle to meet their family’s basic needs. It’s time to raise the minimum wage to a level that ensures all Oregonians are getting a fair deal for their efforts,” Kotek said by email.
     The speaker took issue with the argument that raising the minimum wage could hurt small businesses.
     “There is a strong economic argument in support of raising the minimum wage. Local economies slow down when workers can’t afford to buy the basics,” she said. “Low-wage workers have a high propensity to spend new money coming into their households, so a raise in the minimum wage would lead to more money flowing back into the local economy. One business’ employee is another business’ customer.”
     Seattle passed a city ordinance to gradually increase its minimum wage to $15 per hour. Los Angeles did the same last month. This past November, San Francisco voted to increase its minimum wage to $15.
     The federal minimum wage is $7.25.
     On Jan. 1, 20 states increased their minimum wage. Wyoming and Georgia have no minimum wage. Only five states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee – have minimums lower than the federal rate.

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