March 2nd was a historic day in Oregon—for LGBTQ people, for people of color, for all Oregonians.

On this day, Governor Kate Brown signed into law an increase in the state’s minimum wage, making it the highest statewide minimum wage rate in the nation. By 2022, the minimum wage will be $14.75 inside of Portland’s urban growth boundary, $13.50 in midsize counties, and $12.50 in rural areas.

This is a huge victory for our state! Pride Foundation—alongside partners like Our Oregon, Family Forward Oregon, and Basic Rights Oregon—is proud to have endorsed this bill and participated in the Raise the Wage Coalition.  

While some may not immediately find the direct connection between minimum wage increases and LGBTQ issues, we know that economic justice is crucial to achieving full lived equality.

Take Sophia, a 36-year old transgender woman who testified in support of this law. She moved to Oregon because of its protections for transgender people and inclusive health care.

Sophia has worked service industry jobs that pay just over minimum wage, and the reality is that she struggles mightily to support herself. “I rent a room for $550 a month and continue to try and find employment commensurate with my training. I have years of debt from my education and health care bills. I desperately need to make more than $9.25 an hour to survive,” she explains.

LGBTQ people have disproportionately high rates of poverty due to low and minimum wage jobs—particularly LGBTQ people of color, immigrants, and transgender people. This economic vulnerability is further compounded by the workplace discrimination many LGBTQ people face in hiring and firing.

This is certainly the case for Sophia. “On paper, I look very employable. I have over 12 years of flight training, college, advanced aeronautic education, and thousands of hours of flight time. However, I am struggling to gain employment in my profession due to lack of acceptance and outright discrimination many transgender people experience. No one will hire me—an experience that unfortunately is not unique for transgender people across the country.”

Here are just a few examples of the inequities that exist for marginalized communities in regards to economic justice:

  • Gay and bisexual men earn between 10-32% less than heterosexual men.
  • Household income for households headed by lesbian couples is considerably lower than it is for both opposite-sex households and households headed by gay men.
  • The National Center for Transgender Equality’s report found that transgender people have significantly lower household income than the general population. 15% of respondent’s income is less than $10,000/year, and an additional 12% make less than $20,000/year.
  • In Oregon, minimum- and low-wage jobs are largely filled by people of color—who make up 42% of minimum wage workers, but constitute only 32% of the workforce.
  • Oregon’s agricultural industry, which is predominantly Latino, still operates under laws that allow them to pay their full-time, year-round workers just $14,000/year.

The data is clear: extreme poverty that many in our community face or risk experiencing is in large part due to low-wage jobs. But behind these statistics are real people like Sophia whose lives will be positively impacted by a minimum wage increase.

Continuing to build and actively participate in intersectional movements like the Raise the Wage Coalition is how we’ll effectively respond to future attempts at perpetuating inequities and, ultimately, how we will gain full equality across our region.

Pride Foundation is committed to showing up for all movements that fight injustice—including movements for economic justice— because the outcomes will ensure that all LGBTQ youth, adults, and families deserve the right to live safely, openly, and genuinely.

Katie Carter is the Regional Development Organizer in Oregon. Email Katie.

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