The Portland Press Herald recently published an editorial discussing how workers can be left in a regulatory gap when a city passes a minimum wage without funding enforcement. The editorial was correct about a number of issues surrounding local minimum wage enforcement; however, it omitted one important detail and implied the wrong solution.

As someone who has researched local minimum wage enforcement, I agree with much of the Press Herald’s editorial. The Press Herald was correct that effective minimum wage enforcement includes things like partnerships with community-based organizations, and proactive targeting of high-risk industries for payroll review. I also agree with the simple fact that Portland’s ordinance puts the burden of enforcement on workers.

The Press Herald omitted, though, the important caveat that when a city actually does commit resources to enforcement, they do a much better job than state agencies at enforcing the minimum wage.

For example, in San Francisco, the local minimum wage enforcement agency has outperformed the state. According to the UC Berkeley Labor Center, “the record in San Francisco suggests that local enforcement agencies can collect unpaid wages at a higher rate than the state agency.” Because of the importance of informal social networks, enforcement is more effective when done at the local level and with community partnerships.

I support the minimum wage ballot initiative, but not because it will close the local enforcement gap.

The state Department of Labor is drastically underfunded, and unlike the city, is not in a position to network with local community-based organizations to build networks around enforcement.

The solution to the enforcement gap is not to hand the responsibility off to the state, but is instead to commit city resources to proactive enforcement and community partnerships.

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