Image by Leah Darnell

New minimum wage law to give student workers a boost

By Natalie Rich /// Staff Writer

The future of the minimum wage law has come to Oregon. On March 2nd, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a bill that raises the minimum wage from a flat $9.25 across the state to a tiered system of $14.75 in urban boundaries, $13.75 in more suburban or middle counties and $12.75 in rural areas. The flat minimum wage rate is already increasing to $9.75 in July, and these changes are slated to take complete effect by 2022. This change comes on the tail of recent calls for minimum wage hikes at both federal and state levels. Rises in minimum wages are expected to greatly help poor families who have trouble earning a living wage, due to the disconnect between minimum wages and the actual cost of living. So far, the call for a federal minimum wage hike has been unsuccessful, so the impetus has turned to states and even cities to raise their own minimum wages.

President Obama made a point of congratulating Governor Brown.

I commend the Oregon Legislature and Governor Kate Brown for taking action to raise their state’s minimum wage,” Obama said. “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.”

However commendable these changes are, many public colleges are worried about what the new minimum wage laws would do to their student employment. Portland State University, Oregon State University and University of Oregon have all expressed concerns that they may be forced to employ fewer students because they cannot afford to pay as many students the new minimum wage. OSU is especially worried, because they employ students in all three wage tiers. But what about Lewis & Clark? Some student employees may be worried that the wage increase wouldn’t apply to them, or, perhaps worse, that the wage hike would occur but as a result LC would cut jobs to accommodate. LC is a private college, but, Isaac Dixon, Associate Vice President and Director of Human Resources said that private schools are required to pay student employees minimum wage, and as a result LC will have to accommodate the new law.

“Student workers who are paid less than the state minimum wage will see their pay increased at such time as the wage increase goes into effect,” Dixon said.

“The Bon has to meet minimum wage by law, so they have to pay us according to that,” Ocean Eale ‘19, a Bon Appetit student employee, said.

In addition, unlike public colleges such as Oregon State University, who say that they may have to cut the number of available student jobs down to 700 or so, Dixon wrote that LC has no intention to cut jobs, and does not anticipate needing to do so.

“I don’t worry about any job cutbacks, because the $15 minimum wage won’t go into effect fully for six years,” Eale said. “So I think that’s enough time to adjust.”

This policy also applies to groups like SAAB tutoring, which are paid through an allotment of money given to SAAB from the Student Organization Committee (SOC).

“We’ve always paid at least the minimum wage,” SAAB Chair Aaron Fellows ’16 said. “When we request our allotment from SOC, we make a statement and calculate how many hours were worked. SOC recognizes SAAB’s work, so they’re likely to meet what we ask for.”

“To the extent that student fees are allocated to pay for SAAB tutoring, it seems reasonable to assume that additional money will need to be allocated to accomplish the same number of tutoring hours,” Dixon added.

At this point, it is clear that while the increase in minimum wage will cost the school more, they have no intention of changing how many students they employ. LC student employees need not fear their job being cut, and can even look forward to a wage hike in the near future.

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