Oregon minimum wage, paid sick day advocates say poll findings support their … – OregonLive.com
A coalition of Oregon community and labor groups seeking a higher minimum wage and mandatory paid sick days for workers on Wednesday released the results of two recent polls showing broad support for those and other proposals.
Fair Shot for All, a new coalition launched earlier this month, cited the poll findings as evidence that Oregon voters agree legislative changes are needed to help working families share in the economic recovery.
One national poll of 800 likely voters, conducted by phone Jan. 12-14, found overwhelming support across age, gender and party lines for paid sick days.
- 88 percent of those voters – including 74 percent of Republicans and 96 percent of independents – said they support ensuring all workers earn paid sick days to care for themselves or family members.
- 79 percent – including 61 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats – said they support requiring employers provide paid sick days.
- By more than a 2-to-1 ratio – 60 percent in support, 26 percent opposed – these voters said they favor state-level action on work/family policies if the federal government fails to act.
Lake Research Partners conducted a national poll, based on a phone survey of 800 likely 2016 voters from Jan. 12-14, 2015.
GBA Strategies conducted a statewide telephone poll of 1,000 likely 2016 voters from Dec. 3-8, 2014, including 27 percent reached by cell phone.
Both surveys have a margin of error plus or minus 3.5 percent.
A second statewide poll, conducted Dec. 3-8 among 1,000 likely voters, found majority support for a $15 minimum wage, mandatory paid sick days and a proposal to create a voluntary retirement system for workers without a pension or other employer-sponsored retirement account.
Key findings from the Oregon poll:
- 54 percent said they favor – and 38 percent said they oppose — increasing Oregon’s minimum wage, now $9.25 an hour, to $15 an hour and adjusting for inflation. While roughly 60 percent of both Democrats and unaffiliated voters expressed support, 57 percent of Republicans said they were opposed.
- 67 percent favored – and 23 percent opposed — requiring all Oregon employers to provide 7 paid sick days to their employees. Support crossed partisan lines with 81 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of independents and 51 of Republicans backing the idea.
- 79 percent favored creating a voluntary retirement system for workers, an idea similar to the one Oregon voters rejected in the November 2014 general election. Survey respondents in all regions of the state backed the retirement proposal by majorities ranging from 75 to 85 percent.
The 2013 Legislature voted to set up a task force to study ways of boosting retirement savings, but only after removing specific directives that it establish a statewide plan.
“These results show voters across Oregon are with us on these issues,” said Heather Conroy, executive director of SEIU Local 503, one of more than dozen groups in the coalition. “It couldn’t be more clear (voters) want to see changes that lift up working families.”
Betsy Earls, a vice president and counsel for the business group Oregon Associated Industries, said of the poll results, “When you ask those questions in isolation, it sounds great. But when people are answering those questions, they’re not having to take into account the tradeoffs they may have to make. They will frequently think about it differently when they know what it means for their company.”
A report last week by the Oregon Employment Department pointed to continuing signs of economic recovery, though it noted many Oregonians are still lagging.
The report said employers added 53,000 new jobs in 2014, more than the previous two years combined, while the unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent in December, the lowest it has been since August 2008, shortly before the financial crisis.
Yet the average private-sector job paid three cents less an hour in December than it did in the same month a year earlier, and 122,000 Oregonians remained jobless.
An earlier study by the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center found that nearly 197,000 workers don’t earn enough to cover their basic needs and rely in some part on public support.
Conroy said the economic recovery “has bypassed the middle class” and called on legislators “to catch up with the public.”
The poll results come just days before Monday’s convening of the 2015 Legislature.
Democrats already have introduced several bills aimed at raising the state’s minimum wage and at least two that would require all employers, regardless of size, to provide up to seven days of annual paid sick leave.
One bill would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019. Another would take it to $12.20 by 2017 with provisions to adjust it for inflation.
Fair Shot for All
Fair Shot for All includes Family Forward Oregon, SEIU, the Urban League of Portland, Oregon AFL-CIO, Center for Intercultural Organizing, Oregon Education Association, CAUSA, Basic Rights Oregon, PCUN, UFCW, Rural Organizing Project, AFSCME, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Oregon Action, and an ever-growing coalition from across Oregon.
Identical bills in the House and Senate would allow workers to accrue one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 7 days a year.
Portland and Eugene are among 15 cities nationally that have passed laws requiring employers to provide paid sick time.
Members of the Fair Shot for All coalition are hoping that big Democratic majorities in both houses will translate to legislative support for their proposals.
Gov. John Kitzhaber, in his inaugural address Jan. 12, vowed to fight growing inequality. During his re-election campaign, however, he expressed qualms about raising the minimum wage too high, saying it could make some people ineligible for federal food assistance and other entitlement programs.
— George Rede