Liberals and labor unions pushing for a $15 minimum wage in Oregon were unhappy Monday when Governor Kate Brown signed a bill setting the wage at “only” $13.50 an hour. Oregonians for 15 were pleased about the hike, but dissatisfied that it didn’t go as far as they wanted.
“It’s no secret that the minimum wage bill passed by the Oregon state legislature is too low and too slow,” the group said in a statement. “Nevertheless, due to a significant decline in organizational and voter support since the passage of this bill, the Oregonians for 15 coalition has regretfully suspended signature gathering and will withdraw its $15 statewide ballot initiative.”
The coalition said that the wage hike would nonetheless push the state forward. “We did not win exactly what we set out to achieve, a living wage in Oregon, and that is disappointing to say the least,” said the statement. “But what we did achieve is truly historic in scope and significance. It will make a real difference in the lives of over half a million working Oregonians and their families, and in the national movement for a $15 minimum wage.”
That it will make a real difference is beyond a doubt. For proof, just look at Oregon’s public universities, where administrators are staying up at night to figure out how they’re going to come up with enough money to pay their student workers. At one college, Portland State, the wage hike will cost the school approximately $2.5 million over the next two years. The school’s representatives said they would meet the challenge through “budget cuts and increased revenue,” which sounds like blind optimism.
This is what rarely gets mentioned in the debate over the minimum wage, one which is set to become a major issue at the federal level. Bernie Sanders has endorsed a $15 federal minimum wage and Hillary Clinton wants to put it at $12. But in both cases, these Democrats want the voters to believe that these hikes will improve the lives of struggling, hardworking families who are getting shafted by fat-cat CEOs.
In truth, a one-size-fits-all declaration like this will help very few adults. Instead, it will force small businesses, big corporations, and public universities to jack up prices so that teenagers and entry-level young workers have more walking-around money. And what it will really do is make it even more difficult for unskilled Americans to find jobs of any kind.