Contact: Rose King, 503-863-­1363, Rose@brinkcomm.com  

(Salem, Ore.)—Researchers and labor experts from the University of Oregon testified Wednesday before the House Business and Labor Committee, the House Revenue Committee, and the House Human Services and Housing Committee to highlight The High Cost of Low Wages, a report from the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center (LERC) and Department of Sociology that details the economic reality for Oregon’s low-wage workers in the post-recession economy.  

The report found that over 400,000 Oregonians – roughly 25 percent of the state’s entire workforce – are employed in low-wage work. Further, about one in 7 Oregon workers receive public assistance.  

In the report, researchers recommend a set of policy solutions that stand to improve economic opportunity for Oregon’s working families while reducing corporate welfare and strengthening the state’s economy. They include: raising the minimum wage; expanding paid sick leave; addressing wage discrimination; expanding childcare assistance programs; and promoting collective bargaining. 

Elected officials are considering a number of bills this session that address Oregon’s broken economy and the financial crisis that low wage, no benefits jobs have created.  They include:

+ Raise the Minimum Wage (SB 610)

+ Paid Sick Days (HB 2005, SB 454)

+ A Secure Way to Save for the Future (HB 2960, SB 615) 

+ A Second Chance for Every Oregonian (HB 3025) 

+ End Profiling (HB 2001, 2002, 2003) 

+ Certain and Regular Work Schedules (SB 888, HB 2010)

+ Wage Discrimination (HB 2006, HB 2007)

+ Childcare Assistance Programs (HB 2015)

A full briefing on these bills can be found here

“This research makes it clear that the increased reliance on low-wage, no benefit jobs is dragging down the state’s economy and preventing hundreds of thousands of working Oregonians from having a fair shot at success,” said Andrea Paluso, Executive Director of Family Forward Oregon. “It’s time for our legislative leaders to take action and pass bills that raise the minimum wage, offer paid sick days, and create real economic opportunities for working families."

The report also offers new data on the real costs of public assistance programs that low-wage workers in Oregon must rely on to make ends meet and how taxpayers are supporting a new form of corporate subsidy to the largest companies employing low-wage workers in the state. Each year, taxpayers spend over $1.7 billion to subsidize corporations’ reliance on a low-wage workforce. Large, profitable corporations in retail, fast food, and health care employ the largest share of low-wage workers using public assistance.   

“This report shows how the growth of low wage jobs in Oregon has made it nearly impossible for working adults to afford the basic necessities to take care of their families,” said Raahi Reddy, coordinator of LERC’s Low Wage Economy Initiative. “Low-wage, no-benefit jobs place additional pressure on our social safety net, driving up costs for taxpayers and leaving families struggling just to get by.”

To provide a comprehensive view of what the state’s current economic structure means for working families, researchers examined official government statistics on employment and wages, and compiled extensive data documenting the growth of low-wage work and its effects on low-income workers in Oregon. Sociologist Dr. Ellen Scott also conducted 44 interviews with low-wage working parents. These conversations revealed other challenges Oregon’s low-wage workers face, including cyclical employment, erratic scheduling, difficulty in finding and affording child care, personal health issues, and crises like violence and homelessness. 

Faculty and researchers from the University of Oregon Sociology Department contributed to the report. 

To provide a comprehensive view of what the state’s current economic structure means for working families, researchers examined official government statistics on employment and wages, and compiled extensive data documenting the growth of low-wage work and its effects on low-income workers in Oregon. Sociologist Dr. Ellen Scott also conducted 44 interviews with low-wage working parents. These conversations revealed other challenges Oregon’s low-wage workers face, including cyclical employment, erratic scheduling, difficulty in finding and affording child care, personal health issues, and crises like violence and homelessness. 

Faculty and researchers from the University of Oregon Sociology Department contributed to the report.

A PDF version of The High Cost of Low Wages is available online: http://lerc.uoregon.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/2014-Oregon-Workforce-Report-The-High-Cost-of-Low-Wages-in-Oregon.pdf

About LERC

Since being established by the Oregon Legislature in 1977, the Labor Education and Research Center (LERC) at the University of Oregon has made the resources and expertise of the higher education system available to workers, unions, policy makers, and community partners throughout Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. LERC is committed to improving the lives of working Oregonians and enhancing their ability to participate effectively in the workplace and community affairs. 

 

 




Posted
AuthorMike Westling