On Wednesday, March 2, Gov. Kate Brown signed an Oregon senate bill that will increase the minimum wage to $14.75, currently the highest state-wide minimum wage in the country. Oregon lawmakers weren’t the only ones celebrating the momentous event, either. President Obama praised the Governor saying,
“I commend the Oregon Legislature and Governor Kate Brown for taking action to raise their state’s minimum wage…Congress needs to keep up with the rest of the country. They need to act, and finally give America a raise. And until they do, I’ll continue to encourage states, cities, counties and companies to act on their own to support hardworking families.”
To Oregon lawmakers, this is a huge victory. The end of the bill could presumably read, “and they all lived happily ever after…” because the problem of “income inequality” among the working poor is now solved. At least, that’s what they’d like to believe. What they don’t realize is that many of their lower income workers are employed at their own public universities.
With the first part of the minimum wage increase set to go into effect this July, Oregon universities are now facing some tough choices. At the University of Oregon, this means a tuition hike of 4.8 percent, but even University President Michael Schill says it’s not enough,
“It is not sufficient to meet all our needs, nor will it be sufficient in the future.”
To put the new wage increase into perspective, it will cost UO $432,779 to implement during the 2017 fiscal year alone. It doesn’t end there, though.
At Oregon State University, they’re looking at reducing the number of student jobs by 650-700 to cut costs, according to spokesman Steve Clark. Minimum wage increases will hurt places like OSU the most, where 7800 students are employed and more than half of them receive less than the planned wage increase this summer.
The lawmakers who sought to help the lower income workers are now placing a heavy financial burden on public institutions who are forced to respond in the only way they can. The irony of the wage increase is that it only hurts the very group of people it intended to help.