Minimimum wage hike not helping Ag

By Curt Kipp,
Daily Digger
Oregon Association of Nurseries

Oregon’s minimum wage will go up by 30 cents per hour at the end of the year, state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian announced this month. The new amount will be $8.80 per hour, starting on Jan. 1, 2012. The hike matches a 3.77 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index since last August, as mandated by Ballot Measure 25, which Oregon voters approved in 2002.

Oregon nurseries are a traded sector providing jobs in urban and rural Oregon. Roughly three-fourths of Oregon’s nursery products are shipped out of state, pumping dollars into the state economy. Starting nursery workers typically are paid well above the Oregon minimum wage, at more than $10 per hour. Nonetheless, the wage hike may be voter approved but is certainly not wise in this economic climate, according to Patrick Capper, director of government relations for the 1,100-member Oregon Association of Nurseries.

“We are trying to help rebuild Oregon’s economy,” he said. “A hike in the minimum wage puts upward pressure on all agricultural wages and makes it more difficult for our employers to hire workers. We need to put more Oregonians to work, not less. This won’t help.”

Capper noted that the CPI is based on economic conditions in urban areas. The automatic wage hike ignores the economic reality in rural areas, he said.

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