I co-own Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland. We've been in business for more than 30 years, so I know a thing or two about how small businesses succeed.
On Jan. 11, The Oregonian/OregonLive editorial board's "Foster small business growth" notes three legislative policies that editors claim would negatively affect small businesses: increasing the minimum wage, statewide paid sick days and a state-sponsored retirement savings plan.
My question is: How can Oregon afford to continue down the destructive path of low-wage, no-benefit jobs?
A report released recently by the University of Oregon — also covered by The Oregonian/OregonLive — shows more than 400,000 Oregonians are employed in low-wage work. Meanwhile, demand for public services is at an all-time high. Some employers benefit from low-wage, no-benefit jobs while taxpayers carry the burden, spending an estimated $1.7 billion each year on assistance for working families struggling to make ends meet.
As a small business owner, I know my company plays a vital role in our economy. I also know that our best asset is our employees. Experience has shown me: If you take care of your employees, they'll take care of you. We provide good benefits and have done so since the day we opened. The average tenure of our nine full-time employees is over 16 years. That kind of loyalty is critical to the success of any small business.
Compensating employees fairly is good business. It also makes good economic sense. Don't forget, my employees spend money at other small businesses and vice versa. In today's economy, we need more customers with good paying jobs to ensure small businesses succeed.
Research backs this up: A study by the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank shows that raising the minimum wage increases income and consumer spending. When we put more money in workers' pockets, we boost our local economy — a win for all of us.
Right now, the burden of taking a day to recover falls on workers and families — often earning low-wages — and taxpayers. Plus, when employees come to work sick, it's bad for coworkers and customers. Paid sick days help decrease lost productivity when employees work sick, estimated to cost our national economy $160 billion annually.
Saving for the future is also incredibly important. Nearly half of all Oregonians don't have a retirement plan at work, including many small business owners, leaving many of us at risk of aging without a sufficient nest egg or safety net, unable to cover basic living and medical expenses.
As a small business owner, I'm committed to lifting up our community. I know many other small business owners who feel the same way. If we take care of our employees, they'll take care of us, and our businesses will grow and prosper. That's why I've joined thousands of small business leaders from across the country who support policies like paid sick days, higher wages and access to a retirement plan that make our communities and local businesses stronger and better. It's a win-win, not a zero-sum game.