Key Findings

The living wage for a single adult is $15.96 per hour. This reflects what is needed to meet basic needs and maintain some ability to deal with emergencies and plan ahead. The living wage for a single adult with two children is $30.75 per hour.

For workers saddled with debt, the wage to pay off that debt would be even greater than the calculated living wage. Students in Oregon graduate with $26,639 in student loans,82 and the average credit card holder in the state has an outstanding debt of $4,773.83 Additionally, nearly 20 percent of mortgages in the state are underwater.84

The minimum wage in Oregon does not allow working families to make ends meet. The state’s 2013 minimum wage provided just over half of a living wage for a single adult and less than one-third of the living wage for a single adult with two children. Even the 2014 minimum wage of $9.10 falls well short of allowing workers to move beyond living paycheck-to-paycheck.

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*per working adult

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Gladys Alvarez – Medford, ID

‘Right now, I only have $40 in my bank account, but I owe $2,000 in medical debt from an emergency room visit for stomach pain.’

Personal Testimony: Gladys Alvarez

I’ve been living in Medford, Ore., for 11 years with my three children, who are 13, 7 and 3, and my husband. He and I came to the U.S. from Mexico in order to work hard for a better life for our kids, but it’s hard here, too.

My biggest dream is to be able to buy a home and move out of our trailer so that my daughter can have her own room. But, on two minimum wage salaries, it’s hard to imagine even starting a savings account.

I spent two years working at a fast food restaurant. There, they provided no benefits, denied us our breaks and lunches, gave us no vacation time, and assigned two or three people to do the work of five or six people. If we didn’t keep up, our bosses would yell at us. They only gave me 20 or so hours a week earning minimum wage.

The discrimination was blatant. They never let any of us who are Latino/Mexican work at the register or out in front, always in the kitchen. I felt like we were living and working in the shadows.

Three weeks ago, after searching for more than three months, I found a better job working at the Ashland Hills Hotel. There the hours are better and I haven’t had experiences of such intense discrimination. I’m still earning minimum wage, though, even with this job, so I can’t create savings.

Right now, I only have $40 in my bank account, but I owe $2,000 in medical debt from an emergency room visit for stomach pain. Without savings, we can only afford to pay the minimum of $60 on our two credit card bills. I pay $300 to $400 a month to feed our growing kids. I’m working as hard as I can, but I don’t know how I’m going to make it with this debt and this stress.

Last week, the county fair came to town and my kids were begging me to take them. We didn’t have the money, so I had to borrow some because I want to give them the things and experiences that they want. We came here to contribute and work so that our kids can have a better future. I love this country, but we just need the opportunity. Maybe, then, I can give my daughter her own room.

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Oregon State Report

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