The Business Committee of the Oregon House has passed a bill, HB2744, which would make it impossible for cities and local governments to implement 'Living Wage' legislation, requiring employers to pay more than the State minimum wage. The bill is being pushed by the Oregon Restaurant Association. The restaurant industry, nationwide, is characterized by especially low wages and benefits, and it is not surprising that local restauranteurs desire to continue extracting the maximum possible surplus value from the labor of the workers they employ.
According to Jeff Mapes of the Oregonian, Tim Nesbitt, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, says he "opposes HB2744 because it would prevent local governments from forcing businesses to pay a higher wage rate if they take advantage of tax credits or other public subsidies. For example, he said, cities and counties should be able to demand living-wage jobs for businesses locating in areas that have been redeveloped with public money."
This seems a rather weak response from the leader of the state's main-line labor unions. Does the Oregon AFL-CIO think it is permissable to exploit young people, single parents and other service workers when public funds are not used? Perhaps the full sense of Mr. Nesbitt's opposition was not captured by the Oregonian.
The question remains whether business interests in Salem are to be permitted to aid in rendering workers unable to support their families despite their best efforts. The absence of a living wage law requires that public funds be expended to provide critical services to the working poor. Such expenditures are a subsidy of profit making businesses by the general taxpayer.