I am Oregon Business – a follow up to the Minimum Wage hearing

It’s amazing to me the disparity of opinions depending on which camp you identify with. Last night at the Oregon State Capitol, these two camps identified on whether you were “for” the minimum wage increasing or “against” the minimum wage increasing. Here’s the irony in the great divide: We all want the same thing. We all hate poverty. We all want living wages for all. We all want healthy individuals. We all want to have and be contributing members of society. The only difference between us is the ideas on how to accomplish that.

My friend Macey and I arrived at the capitol at 4:45pm and got into a line over 100 people long. This line was just for people to sign up to testify. Testimony was to start at 6pm. My greatest disappointment is the view people have for the other side. In actuality, most likely the opinion you’ve formed is wrong. And I’m talking to both sides.

Back story… One woman angrily began her testimony with this statement: “I want to point out the three men on the panel before me…”

I don’t recall the three men that sat before her, but I can imagine they looked a lot like my dad. He’s 57, white, and wears plaid a lot. Maybe a jacket or a wool vest. My guess is those three men looked like that.

Let me tell you about my dad. He’s a second generation grass seed farmer, growing up with three brothers and two sisters. They didn’t want for much, but they also didn’t have a lot. My dad worked for the family farm since he was a kid, missing weeks of high school to work on his dad’s custom spraying business for other farmers in the Willamette Valley. Realizing the family farm wouldn’t support all the brothers, him and his brother Gene started a trucking business with two trucks. They hauled potatoes, Christmas trees, watermelon, onions, lumber and anything else they could get paid for. He was gone on a “long-haul” more time than he was home. He’s mortgaged everything he owns to take risks on ideas, where some have panned out, others have failed. He farms today, along with that trucking business, and this year we are surviving. The money is coming in, but going right out in the form of equipment payments, fuel and labor. That’s okay because we get to contribute to the local community! That is what is so exciting about local, small business. We have good years and we have bad years – it’s farming. It’s life. To this day he feels guilty for missing part of my and my sister growing up years. My sister Ola and I? We’re proud of him – he did what he had to do, making sacrifices, for his family. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Ever.

There was another sterotype mentioned multiple times from one camp: the single mom. I mentioned my friend Macey. Her story is too long to write here, but deserves to be heard. She lost her husband to cancer within a year of giving birth to their daughter and has been a single mom for now 10 years. She struggled with tens of thousands of dollars of medical debt she took it upon herself to slowly pay off over the years. She has struggled and still does. And she has had to make hard choices because it is extremely difficult to be a single mom these days – and let’s be honest at any time would it be hard to be a single mom or dad.

My advice: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Please don’t stereotype those human beings by the color of their skin, their gender, the age he/she is, whether they are single or not raising children, or the plaid he chooses to wear. Nor assume that if they fit this stereotype they automatically have to sit in one camp or the other.

Time for my FAVORITE part of the night. Two words. Malheur County. A great reporting by the Capital Press in this article: East Oregon ag interests lobby against wage hike plans. I met a woman named Sharla. Her family agri-business includes growing and a packaging facility for onions and asparagus, among other things. I was surprised to hear her farm and agri-business employs 150 people. Wow! They are located 400 yards from the Idaho border. Idaho’s minimum wage is $7.25. I asked her why she didn’t originally locate in Idaho. She said they thought about it but the community they lived in was more important. With a wage hike, though, they will be forced to re-locate and have already found a place to do so. What a travesty that would be. Their theme to the legislature was this: #CarveUsOut. I get it – can I jump on that bandwagon?

Counties

I wasn’t able to testify as the Chairs of the Committees stopped testimony at 9:00pm. Because Eastern Oregon had so many people there to testify, they were able to go first. I am glad they were all able to do so. I’m also disappointed I wasn’t able to speak about our farm and the affect an increase would have. But on the flip side, I was home in my warm bed within 30 minutes of leaving Salem. The Oregonians from the east side of the state didn’t get home until early this morning after riding in a bus all night long. Eastern Oregon: Your testimony was inspiring. Thank you.

Finally, this is directed at the Oregon Legislature. If a doctor tells me I have high blood pressure, I do. I might get a second opinion, but I’m going to believe the doctor. You know why? Because he’s a doctor, and went to medical school. I am not a doctor and I did not study the human body and medicine. If the business community is telling you we can’t do this, we can’t. You know why? Not because we want to be richer. We want to continue to employ our employees that have been with us loyally for decades. We want to continue to pay our taxes, support the local counties and state, and we want to continue promoting Oregon to the communities, states, and the world. If the agriculture community is telling you we can’t do this, we can’t. You know why? Because we farm, you don’t. We know the cost inputs, and the money we get paid for our crops. It’s not an opinion, it’s fact. And last night you heard it over, and over, and over again. Why don’t you believe us?

As for the few businesses owners that testified in support of the minimum wage hike, no one is stopping you! That’s great you give raises! We do too. An Adorable Old Guy testified last night: “If Portland wants to pay their employees more, go ahead and do so. No need to wait for this to pass.”

Twitter Min Wage

Brings me to my testimony. I’m posting my testimony here, along with Macey Wessels and Anna Scharf as we weren’t able to testify and we would like to share our story. Thank you for listening. Also – one last thing – I might wear cowboy boots and you might wear rubber boots, tennis shoes, flip-flops, or heels, but in general we all want the same thing. Oregon, let’s try to remember that.

Testimony on minimum wage_Shelly Boshart Davis

Testimony on minimum wage_Anna Scharf

Testimony on minimum wage_Macey Wessels

Macey Wessels_attachment_Holland facility

Macey Wessels_attachment_Tangent facility

ENGAGE in OREGON’s future – won’t you?

I was asked to be a part of an exciting new organization: Engage Oregon. Its two main goals, in my opinion, are paramount to Oregon’s success in all areas.

GOALS:

  • Business is the solution, not the problem.
  • Government needs to be held accountable for spending, especially when it comes to dollars for education.

Our mission

To engage and activate Oregonians who care about growing and expanding job opportunities here in Oregon.

How can you disagree with that?

This past year I’ve been outspoken on behalf of Oregon agriculture, export, and trucking industries when it came to the mass confusion and incredible economical loss we encountered during the West Coast Port Crisis. Many farmers, truckers, mechanics, assembly line workers, equipment operators, office staff, etc… all saw extreme scenarios that put their jobs and their livelihoods at risk this past year.

I was asked to write a short column on my thoughts about this, and this was sent out to Engage Oregon’s supporters. I’d like to share here:

engage-oregon-logo

Dear Engage Oregon supporter,

Growing up in a farming family, I started driving tractor at age 12.  As I grew, so did my family’s businesses. Boshart Trucking, BOSSCO Trading, PressCo and SJB Farms, employ nearly 50 Oregonians, and provide Oregon-grown food, grass seed and forage to customers all over the world.  

Oregon is in a unique geographical position in both the nation and the world to capitalize on international trade, yet we are in trouble.

Agriculture is important to us as Oregonians and as Americans. From the words of our former governor: “Agriculture remains one of Oregon’s economic bright spots, creating about 1 in 10 Oregon jobs, with a $5.4 billion production value equal to roughly 15% of the state’s economy. There is tremendous diversity in what we grow, with more than 220 different commodities produced under some of the best growing conditions you’ll ever find. That array of crops, livestock, and fisheries strengthens our agricultural economy which strengthens all of Oregon.”

What does that mean in a nutshell? JOBS. The opportunity for Oregon agriculture and its effect on the economy is exciting – if we allow it to happen. Oregon agriculture has diversified into both domestic and global markets that are growing and have the capacity to grow more!

If we can’t get Oregon agricultural products to market, then the opportunity for economic growth has been lost. From the words of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC): “There is nothing that we produce in this country in agriculture, that cannot be sourced somewhere else in the world. We can grow the best in the world, but if we can’t deliver affordably and dependably, the customer will go somewhere else… and may never come back.”

The current status of Oregon’s exports is discouraging. We no longer have container service at the Port of Portland. 99% of the Port of Portland’s container business left the state in February when Hanjin’s last vessel, the Copenhagen, pulled out of Portland after a 22-day moorage in February and Hapag Lloyd followed suit by not calling on the Port. This business has not been replaced. This has left Oregon’s exporters scrambling to find other means to get their product to the international market – primarily via Seattle and Tacoma.

For the sake of our economy, this has to change. Oregon’s agriculture – and those that rely on it for food, feed, shelter, and jobs – need every chance to be competitive. Oregon’s port working productively is one opportunity to accomplish this.

Thanks for staying in touch with Engage Oregon. Together we can turn the tide.

https://www.facebook.com/EngageOregon       https://twitter.com/engageoregon

Shelly Boshart Davis, Oregonian

Being engaged as an Oregonian – regardless of the side of the aisle you identify with – is something I think we should all aspire to.

If you’d like to join me in getting involved in this new organization, please do! Simply go to www.engageoregon.org, and sign up on the home page. Click through the website to learn more. Whatever you do, however you vote, this is something we can all proudly be a part of.