Readers Respond to Oregon’s Labor Shortage

“Employers are missing the most obvious incentive: on-site child care.”

Last week’s edition of WW examined the unusual leverage Oregon workers have over employers: For every seven people looking for work, there are 10 jobs available. The resulting desperation has led some industries to offer extraordinary signing bonuses, ranging from $500 for line cooks to $30,000 for a commercial truck driver. Here’s what our readers had to say:

Scrappymutt, via “We’re struggling to find nurses, teachers, police officers and bus drivers. Meanwhile, companies are making billions of dollars with food delivery, crypto currency, sports gambling, and of course legal weed. The economy is broken, and the government is too polarized to fix it.”

Patty Wentz, via Twitter: “Employers are missing the most obvious incentive: on-site child care.”

Kathy Frost, via Facebook: “Interesting that there is all this whining about a lack of labor and apparently no willingness to make sure families have safe, secure child care and women can come back to work that is meaningful.”

Scott Gregg, via Facebook: “As a person who does hire people: Yes, there is a labor shortage. Yes, wages are increasing because of that. Yes, now is a good time to look to change jobs. And a lot of people are shifting jobs, for sure. “At the same time, we have a huge problem. Housing costs are sky high. A ‘livable’ wage in Portland is about $22 an hour. If you are making less than that, the chances are, you are very financially vulnerable and just a paycheck or two from being homeless. And you are probably not a homeowner, unless you bought your home 15 years ago. Not being a homeowner, a renter is double-screwed since rents go up each year regardless of your pay. “So we can have a hot economy, fine and dandy, but that does not mean people are living the life of ease. Far from it. For the people that started out this pandemic on the lowest rung of the ladder, they are still going to have a very hard time of it.”

MarySue Healy, via “You can make as much and often make more working under the table. Dog walkers, house cleaners, caretakers [and] babysitters can make $22 in PDX an hour with no taxes and a hell of a lot more freedom. I know a lot of people who do this.”

Look at Betsy Johnson’s voting record on guns

Your recent interview with Betsy Johnson really missed the mark on her position on gun safety. Senate Bill 554 passed the Oregon Legislature last March—the only gun-related bill to pass the Legislature in several years. SB 554 authorizes local governments and school districts to prohibit guns on capital and state property. And guess who was the only Democrat to vote against it—Betsy Johnson. In 2015, 2017, and 2018, Betsy Johnson also voted against gun-related bills—one bill requiring background checks for firearm transfers and another bill prohibiting stalkers from possessing firearms. For someone professing a great concern for “public safety,” her record on guns should be of interest. Kevin Smiley Southwest Portland

LETTERS to the editor must include the author’s street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: PO Box 10770, Portland, OR 97296 Email:

Willamette Week's journalism is funded, in part, by our readers. Your help supports local, independent journalism that informs, educates, and engages our community. Become a WW supporter.