Tag Archives: Raising Oregon’s Minimum Wage

The Portland Legislature

Oregon, Portland, USA

The Portland Legislature is making it very clear that we live in the state of Portland, not the state of Oregon.

A current minimum wage proposal of $14.75 for Portland, $13.50 for urban/rural mix counties & $12.50 for RURAL counties has one last hurdle to clear this week, The Oregon House of Representatives. Talk about a state divided.

3 Tier Min Wage
NOBODY wants this proposal except the people who graduated from Portland State with a Philosophy Degree and are confused about why they cannot make a living. Try getting a degree with an actual job attached to it. Heard it works well.

However, the Portland legislature is cramming this minimum wage proposal down the throats of everyone outside of Portland. They are telling us we will “like it” because it is less bad than the alternative. The alternative is that we are being threatened with  two statewide ballot initiatives; $13.50 for entire state or $15 for entire state.

NEWS FLASH: A bad bill is still a bad bill.

The Portland Legislature & the Governor have decided small business and family farms are worth the sacrifice in order to avoid this “threat” and most importantly to please their donors. It is no secret that the unions bankroll the leadership in the Oregon Legislature, they also are the same group backing and pushing the ballot initiatives. Governor Brown received a $100,000 campaign donation from the unions a week before she unveiled her minimum wage proposal.

Oregon Governor knows Minimum wage is bad

People from all sides of the state who are opposed to this minimum wage proposal testified, sent emails, showed up and talked face to face with legislators. We told them “This is not workable for small business.” “This is not workable for local food”. “This is not workable for family farmers.”  “We are moving to Idaho.” “This is not workable for the foundation of Oregon.” 

But they failed to believe us versus Portland.

The Portland legislature all told us this is the only way to “avoid an extreme ballot measure.” They said they understood us and they “are trying to make provisions for small business & farmers.”  This way “we can fix it in 2017.” I was specifically told, “I am convinced that if the measure got to the ballot it would pass strongly.  I view the choice as one between two bad choices.” 

So if you know the ballot initiative is bad and if you know bill in the legislature is bad, then why don’t we fight it all together? How about we use this discussion for a bipartisan effort to educate Oregonians about economics? There are so many opportunities for both sides of the aisle to come together and discuss Oregon’s economic strengths & weaknesses. Let’s talk about what options are available for the legislature to help promote (not mandate) family wage jobs and economic growth in this state.

But Nope. “Screw you Oregon. Portland is the state.”

 

Related Links:

2 Comments

Filed under Economy, Future of Agriculture, Legislature, Oregon, Rural

Minimum Wage, Rural Oregon & Agriculture

This week I appeared on KATU’s “Your Voice, Your Vote” to discuss increasing Oregon’s minimum wage. The opposition included me along with economist Dr. Eric Fruits. The proponents of raising of Oregon’s minimum wage were Senator Diane Rosenbaum and 15 Now Oregon’s Justin Norton-Kerston.

Some thoughts

The proponents of a minimum wage never refute me on the fact that raising the minimum wage will hurt Rural Oregon.

Senator Rosenbaum claims raising minimum wage has never negatively affected Oregonians before. Yet on Monday we heard farmers testified they had quit growing certain crops because of high labor costs. On our own farm we have gone from seven windrowers/swathers and four combines to three.

One in eight jobs are tied to Oregon agriculture. How will increases the wage floor impact this? More importantly, Oregon Agriculture is expected add 8,200 jobs by 2020…growing faster than Oregon’s economy as a whole.  However was a 62% increase in the wage floor a factor when this prediction was made?

Currently, we hire people who can be as young as 14 years old. We file the proper paperwork & get the permits required so we can hire local students ages 14-17 years old, who are paid minimum wage and higher. Contrary to “talking points” this is not child labor. If minimum wage was to raise to $15/hour, the risk of hiring these inexperienced “kids” would outweigh the benefits. Ultimately, harming Oregon’s future workforce.

Alternatively, we can go through the H2A Visa program and hire experienced workers. Typically these employees would be from the Southern Hemisphere and work harvest year around. They have experience driving equipment similar to our farm’s.  This would save us time & cost of investment in training.

Conclusion

It’s hard to understand what we do on the farm. The fact is, we know our costs, we know our risks & are always skeptical if it will all pay off. It is a constant gamble and a supposed educated guess, hence the skepticism.

However, I will try to help anyone understand the best way possible how farming works. We have nothing to “hide” on the farm, it just can be super complicated if you do not live it day-to-day.

Information I found interesting

 

1 Comment

Filed under Agriculture, Economy, Oregon, Rural

Why Raising Oregon’s Minimum Wage is a Bad Idea

Last night, I testified in opposition to raising Oregon’s minimum wage. Here is my entire testimony.

April 13, 2015

Senate Committee on Workforce
House Committee on Business and Labor
Oregon State Capitol

RE: Raising Oregon’s minimum wage – Opposed

Chair Dembrow, Chair Holvey & Committee,

I am Marie Bowers Stagg, a fifth generation farmer in Linn & Lane Counties. We farm primarily grass seed, wheat & meadowfoam. Like a typical farmer my job is a smorgasbord of everything; I run the baling crew, I do the planting, I drive fertilizer & spray truck along with many other tasks. I also do the books on the farm, which includes the payroll.

Our full time farm workforce consists of my husband, my dad, my mom, two non-family members and of course me. Full time employees are offered benefits and are paid a living wage, their skill set dictates what that wage may be. However we do depend on a seasonal workforce for harvest & preparing fields for planting.

In 2014 we hired seven local students ages 14-21 to drive combines, balers and tractors. They are paid based on years and experience. We start a new employee, who is typically 14 or 15 years of age, at minimum wage. Pay raises are potentially given throughout the season if performance warrants it. If an experienced employee returns the following season they are given a raise at that point too.

Minimum wage has a real fiscal impact on the farm.

On our farm 50% of our expenses are composed of three specific things: fertilizer, rent and labor. In 2014 our pay scale at the end of season for the seven employees ranged from $9.20 to nearly $12. Remember, minimum wage was $9.10 last year.

I calculated the fiscal impact raising the minimum wage would have on our farm based on the hours these kids worked from June 1, 2014 to September 30, 2014.

Currently, on a per acre basis our cost for the seven employees is $9.07/acre.

At $15/hour our cost would go to $13.65/acre, an increase $4.58/acre. 

At $13.50/hour our cost would go to $12.28/acre, an increase $3.21/acre. 

In other terms, at current market conditions we would need to increase our yields to produce at least 75,000 more pounds of annual ryegrass. If we knew a way to do this in a short time frame, we would, but yield is dictated by many factors, minimum wage is not one of those factors.

If the Oregon Legislature wishes to mandate we increase our expenses, preferably I would like to invest into something that would increase productivity. For the amount certain parties think we should be spending on current employees we could hire three or four more people.

My family has been hiring local students for over half a century. I have had middle-aged adults come up to me and tell me working for my family taught them how to work. They wouldn’t be the person they are today without the experience they got from working on the farm. Yet, with these current minimum wage proposals these valuable life skills would be in jeopardy, as we would seek alternatives such as a foreign workforce.

My head baler driver, Natassia is a senior at Oregon State University. She will be graduating this spring in pre-vet and start veterinary school in the fall. She has worked for us every summer she has been in college. She is a true example of how working on a farm has helped her prepare for her future career, in financial terms as well as with skill sets.

According to Natassia, “Working for Bashaw Land & Seed has made it so that I don’t have to juggle work and school at the same time. I work all summer and make what I would have made throughout the school year if I worked year round. This means I have time to study and get into vet school. I now have an education and don’t need a lower skills job that would pay minimum wage. Also, working on the farm has taught me tons of transferable skills such as making snap decisions under pressure.”

Natassia is one of the many seasonal employees my family has seen grow as a person and worker. It makes me proud that our farm can provide Oregon with such high quality employees. Yet, raising the minimum wage would make stories like Natassia’s a thing of the past. I do not think that’s what we want for Oregon.

If the minimum wage were to increase we will look at hiring our entire seasonal workforce from outside the country. In past years we have hired at least one worker from South Africa and New Zealand. Moving forward this may become our new normal to hire entire crews of foreign experienced workers and hiring local students would be a thing of the past.

I urge you to oppose the minimum wage increase; it would hurt Oregon farmers and Oregon’s future workforce. Thank you for your time today.

Me opposing increasing Oregon's Minimum wage last night in front of the committee

Me opposing increasing Oregon’s Minimum wage last night in front of the committee

Related Links: 

3 Comments

Filed under Agriculture, Economy, Legislature, Oregon, Rural