Oregon hikes minimum wage with landmark law

Posted at 5:42 PM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-02 20:42:11-05

SALEM, Ore. - Oregon's governor on Wednesday signed trailblazing legislation that will raise the minimum wage to nearly $15 in six years and do so through a three-tiered system that has not been tried anywhere else in the country.

"I'm proud to sign into law my top priority of the 2016 Legislative session -- raising the minimum wage," Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement. She said the new law "is a path forward -- so working families can catch up, and businesses have time to plan for the increase."

President Obama said Congress needs to follow Oregon's example and raise the federal minimum wage -- now at $7.25 an hour.

"I commend the Oregon Legislature and Governor Kate Brown for taking action to raise their state's minimum wage," Obama said in a statement. The president said 18 states and the District of Columbia have acted since he first called on Congress to increase the federal standard in 2013.

Oregon's plan follows moves in states such as Massachusetts, California and Vermont that recently boosted statewide minimums above $10.

The Oregon increases over six years surpass those adopted by any other state so far. Oregon's current minimum wage is $9.25 an hour.

What makes the Oregon plan especially different is that the minimums will be based on where workers are employed. The approach aims to balance the needs of the rapidly growing urban powerhouse of Portland with the state's struggling farming communities, which have long been deeply divided by their economic, cultural and political differences.

Portland's minimum will rise to $14.75 by 2022, smaller cities to $13.50 and rural areas to $12.50.

The first increases will occur in July, when the wage minimum goes up by 50 cents in Portland and smaller cities and 25 cents in rural communities.