Sticking It to the People 

Legislature May Ruin Minimum Wage Initiative

In November, Oregon voters narrowly approved a voter initiative to raise the state's minimum wage. In addition to a higher minimum wage, the ballot measure assured that minimum wages would increase each year at a rate to pace inflation. It seemed as if waitresses, cashiers and others who count on the minimum wage finally had a safety net.

But last week, the state legislature began the process to curtail the controversial clause. At an invitation-only session, state legislators began to consider a bill that will repeal automatic minimum wage raises.

The initiative's champion, Rep. Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland), called the possible repeal "an affront to the electorate." Last summer Rosenbaum led the charge to collect 86,000 signatures to place the initiative on last November's ballot.

"

We have people working full time, sometimes at more than one minimum-wage job, who can't afford to support themselves, let alone support a child," said Rosenbaum. "A

bout 150,000 people are covered by the minimum wage. That's how many people stand to lose if this bill passes."

Even though the initiative passed in November, critics have continued to raise quarrels about how raising the minimum wage actually drives up the cost of living.

K.C. "Squirrel" Chappell, 50, a housekeeper and cook for a bar in Northwest Portland, raised two children on three minimum-wage paying jobs. As a single parent, Chappell said she was "strapped to the max."

"It sucked. I never saw my kids," she said.

Chappell said that a minimum wage that lags behind inflation directly leads to homelessness because it doesn't pay the rent.

The state legislature will likely vote on this matter as early as this week.

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