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Special interests seek to chip away at minimum wage increases, paid sick days, and retirement security, hurting Oregon women and communities of color

Salem, Ore.—Fair Shot for All, a coalition of more than 30 Oregon community and labor groups, released a new report Friday detailing efforts to roll back laws that have expanded economic opportunity for working families. 

During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers introduced nearly 50 bills designed to strip away economic protections from workers. The rollbacks specifically target low-income workers, who are disproportionately women and people of color. 

Examples include:

  • HB 3317 - Changes minimum wage tiers and create a separate minimum wage for agricultural workers
  • SB 407 - Exempts employers under 50 employees from minimum wage tiers
  • SB 402 - Exempts agricultural workers from sick time
  • SB 403 - Repeals paid sick time for everything but domestic violence leave
  • SB 405 -  Repeals provisions of the Oregon Retirement Savings Plan

Other bills would shift the cost of wages and sick time from employers to taxpayers through targeted tax credits to corporations and special interests. 

Friday marked the cutoff deadline for legislative committees to hold work sessions on bills that originated in the opposite chamber. As of that deadline, most of these roll back measures were dead. 

Those bills still moving through the legislature include:

  • HB 2182 - Creates tax credit for employers that pay wages to youth workers, defined as workers between 16 and 25 years of age
  • HB 3383 - Establishes refundable tax credit against income or corporate excise taxes for employers in specified industrial sectors for wages paid to employees at or below specified rate
  • SB 299 - Directs Bureau of Labor and Industries to study issue of sick leave in Oregon. Excludes certain individuals from determination of number of employees of employer. Modifies rate of pay for accrued sick time for certain individuals.

The full report, including a list of all rollback legislation, is available online in PDF format. 

“Instead of devising schemes to strip wages, sick days, and retirement savings away from working Oregonians, lawmakers should be focused on expanding economic opportunity in our communities,” said Ramon Ramirez, President of Pineros y Campesinos del Noroeste (PCUN – Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United). “Many of these rollbacks specifically target agricultural employees, devaluing their work and treating them as less than deserving of a living wage, paid sick time, or a secure retirement. It is sad that in 2017 we have to continue fighting efforts to undermine economic progress for American workers, especially women and people of color.” 

At the federal level, Congress passed and President Trump signed a resolution in May to roll back regulations designed to help states set up retirement plans for workers. The resolution targets state-based retirement security plans like OregonSaves, which Fair Shot fought to pass during the 2015 legislative session.  

Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley both made statements condemning the resolution. State Treasurer Tobias Read has vowed to continue moving forward with the state’s plan to make retirement savings easier to access for more Oregonians. 

"While we may continue to see these threats to working Oregonians pop up in future legislative sessions, committee chairs and leadership in both houses have stood strong in 2017, calling foul and stopping a number of these bills from moving forward,” said Andrea Williams, Executive Director of Causa. “At a time when many hardworking Oregonians are fearful of the policies and rhetoric coming out of Washington D.C., Fair Shot for All remains united against attacks on workers and families in our state.” 

AuthorChristine Saunders