New Seasons Market of Portland, Oregon, will increase its starting wage from $10 to $12 per hour in January. The announcement comes as the grocery chain voices its support for a statewide increase to Oregon’s minimum wage in 2016. New Seasons, with more than 3,300 employees, is the largest local employer to step forward in support of increasing the minimum wage in Oregon.
New Seasons Market says it always has had an internal starting wage that is higher than the federal and Oregon minimum wages and offers a generous compensation and benefits package—distributing 20 percent of after-tax profits to staff in the form of profit sharing, offering lifestyle scheduling and providing a 20 percent staff discount.
New Seasons CEO Wendy Collie notes that, while companies can make strides such as these independently, individual employers like New Seasons Market cannot reasonably move to $15 per hour on their own. She says broader progress will require public policy changes that create a level playing field for business competition while “rising the tide for all ships.”
“For the things we champion—quality of life, sustainable food economy and thriving communities—Oregon needs an increase in the minimum wage,” said Collie. “It needs to be done in the right way, and we are hopeful that the 2016 legislative session will resolve this issue for the state of Oregon.”
New Seasons is joined by several other local businesses, including Grand Central Bakery, HOTLIPS Pizza, Looptworks, Neil Kelly, ¿Por Qué No? and The Joinery in calling for state elected leaders to take action in 2016 on a minimum wage policy that meets the needs of Oregon’s diverse communities.
“We believe raising the minimum wage in Oregon is the right thing to do for our staff and our communities, to ensure everyone can thrive in the communities where they live and work,” said Collie.
Although the businesses have not endorsed a specific ballot measure or legislative proposal, Collie defined several aspects of the policy direction that it supports.
“A higher minimum wage policy needs to meet the needs of our staff, our customers and the communities we serve, to ensure sustainable businesses and the vitality of our economy as a whole,” said Collie.
New Seasons says it supports policy choices that phase in the wage increases, as has been done in Seattle and San Francisco, so companies can build them into their budgets in a sustainable fashion. Minimum wage phase-ins should also account for the economic differences of small and large employers, the grocer says.
“We need a higher minimum wage that works for rural producers and that supports the sustainable food economy for which we are champions,” said Collie. “The wage that supports self-sufficiency in urban areas such as Portland could be $15 per hour, while the differences in cost of living in rural communities could make the same wage unsustainable.”
New Seasons operates 17 stores company-wide—16 New Seasons Markets in Oregon and Southwest Washington and one store in San Jose, California. It also owns and operates five New Leaf Community Markets in Northern California.