Portland Just Scored a Win for Minimum Wage Earners

February 20th 2015

Fifteen dollars. That's how much full-time city contractors and workers who currently receive the minimum wage will now earn in Portland, Oregon. For those keeping score at home, this makes theirs the highest minimum wage in the country. The news also comes on the heels of the announcement that the Oregon state legislature is set to debate a bill that would immediately increase the state's minimum wage to $9.25 an hour and $15 in several years. As if the doughnuts, IFC sketches, and general demeanor of Portland weren't enough of a draw, now there's this? 

The amendment to the city's Fair Wage Policy (FWP) came to a vote on Wednesday after three hours of testimony from employees and union representatives. It passed 5-0, raising the hourly wage for about 157 contractors (employed by a third party, but mandated to adhere by the FWP) and 16 full-time workers.

But the bill still isn't perfect. Although its passing relied heavily on the testimony of many contract workers — much of whom are considered temporary and/or seasonal part-time employees — they will not see a raise of their hourly rate because of current state mandates.

"The people who most need it are not getting the raise," Amanda Fritz, Commissioner of the Parks Bureau, explained to The Oregonian. "We need to do what we can when we can." 

Fritz explained that it would only cost $3.1 million a year to also pay their part-time and seasonal workers $15 an hour. The approved wage-earner increase will cost $1 million. The Parks Bureau employs the vast majority of these part-time workers. 

Still, a vitally important win is still a vitally important win for minimum wage workers not only in the city, but countrywide: if Portland can do it, why can't the rest of us, eh?