06 Oct

Time to think about a minimum wage someone could live on

We need to rethink the minimum wage.

And a lot of people are way ahead of us.

The minimum wage isn’t just a training wage for high school kids working at the malt shop after classes. It’s the wage for millions of adults working in retail and restaurants, who are a long way from a raise – but who still need to eat and live.

That’s a particularly tough challenge in a place like Oregon, where housing costs are reaching high-rise levels.

That’s why states and cities all across the country, and especially on the West Coast, are raising their minimum wages, and why Oregon needs to do that, too. We need to get people who work full time closer to a living wage, and not left in a position where taxpayers have to make up the difference.

There are, of course, good and bad ways to do it. We shouldn’t be stampeded into a suddenly fashionable number, like $15 an hour.

As several local businesses that are supporting a higher minimum wage have suggested, we should raise it gradually, over several years. We could even keep the indexing that Oregon has had since 2002.
It’s true that for some businesses we’ll be creating higher labor costs.

But we’ll also be creating customers.

NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV, 10/5/15.