Are Oregon Democrats backtracking already on the minimum wage?

Less than two weeks after Oregon’s minimum wage increase was signed into law, Democratic House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick told the Portland Business Alliance they’ll propose changes to it next year, including lower wages for younger workers and trainees — according to a report in the Oregonian. Only, Kotek tells the Northwest Labor Press, that’s not accurate.

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek
Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek

Kotek says there are no plans to adjust the wage scale that was put in place over the next six years. But she said legislators are willing to have conversations about a lower wage for trainees and young workers — as a solution to the problem of youth unemployment.

“I can’t even gauge what interest there would be in doing [a training wage],” Kotek said, “but the business community kept bringing it up, and so we said ‘Okay, we’ll talk about it, but we don’t know where we would go with that.’”

State Sen. Michael Dembrow and State Rep. Paul Holvey — both chairs of labor committees — say they plan to discuss a training and/or youth wage, but they also say other solutions to youth unemployment might be as good or better — like targeted tax credits or additional state support for youth work programs.

“Our job as the Legislature is to continue to talk about all issues that people bring up,” Kotek said. “Whether or not we move forward on anything that adjusts wages for youth or training is really hard to tell at this point.”

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