On July 1st, minimum wages rose across Oregon. NWJP worked hard in the short 2016 legislative session to support its partners in the Raise the Wage coalition and to secure the increase, while assuring that no industry, like agricultural or restaurant, was exempted from the increase. While the law was certainly a compromise, this summer well over one hundred thousand low-wage workers in Oregon got a desperately needed raise.
In Portland and the state’s more populated counties, the minimum wage rose to $9.75 on July 1. In Malheur, Lake, Harney, Wheeler, Sherman, Gilliam, Wallowa, Grant, Jefferson, Baker, Union, Crook, Klamath, Douglas, Coos, Curry, Umatilla and Morrow counties, our more rural counties, it went up to $9.50. Eventually separating into three regions with separate wage tiers, the wage across the state will steadily increase through 2022 and then be indexed to inflation.
NWJP also worked to influence the regulations that Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) issued specifying which minimum wage would apply to employees who worked in more than one minimum wage region or away from their employers’ fixed locations. The regulations also are certainly a compromise. However, they assure that an employee who works 50% or more of their time in a higher wage region than the region of their employer’s fixed place of business will receive the higher wage. Those that work in more than one region away from their employer’s fixed location will receive either a) the regional minimum wage for each hour worked in each region, or b) the highest of the minimum wages for all of the hours. This will prevent employers from moving to lower wage regions, while dispatching employees into higher ones, in an effort to game the system.
We know that a higher minimum wage will not stop wage theft and even may encourage employers to steal wages from their workers to maintain their profit margins. Therefore, NWJP continues to advocate for stronger laws against wage theft, to educate workers about their rights under the law, to backstop the efforts of community partners to help workers collect wages and will be accepting cases from workers who believe that their employer is not complying.