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Wage increase could cost jobs

by MITCH LIES, Capital Press September 18, 2012

An Oregon Farm Bureau executive said the state's new $8.95-an-hour minimum wage will force farmers to make tough choices and cost jobs.

"For a lot of producers, it means they will be making some tough choices about changing the type of commodity they produce, or going to mechanization," said Shawn Cleave, associate director of government affairs for the statewide farm organization.

Beginning Jan. 1, Oregon's minimum wage will be 23 percent higher than the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour, and second highest in the nation, behind only Washington's.

Washington's minimum wage of $9.04 an hour also is expected to rise Jan. 1.

Oregon's current minimum is $8.80 an hour.

Both states adjust their wage annually based on the Consumer Price Index, a gauge of inflation.

Neither state adjusts wages downward in recessions, a fact that Cleave said has led to an overinflated minimum.

"We're seeing an overinflated minimum wage as a result of a minimum-wage policy that doesn't adjust downward when the economy dips," Cleave said.

"I don't think the voters, when they voted in the CPI minimum-wage inflator realized that the policy wasn't thoroughly thought through," Cleave said.

"The overall impact is going to mean fewer jobs for Oregonians," he said.

Cleave said the high minimum reduces a farm's incentive to train new workers.

"At rates this high, you can't afford to train anybody," Cleave said. "You can only afford to hire the most skilled work force you can find."





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