“Working people are becoming increasingly impatient with legislators’ inability to act” said 15 Now Oregon member and chief petitioner Jamie Partridge. “If the legislature won’t do the right thing, then we’ll take $15 to a vote of the people.” Other chief petitioners for the initiative are Marcy Westerling, founder of the Rural Organizing Project, and Ramon Ramirez, president of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United).
The national movement for a $15 minimum wage has come to Portland. Building on momentum from Monday’s packed minimum wage hearing in Salem and the announcement that 15 Now Oregon will file a ballot measure for a statewide $15 minimum wage, over 400 community members and workers marched through downtown Portland as part of a historic national day of awareness, action, and strikes for $15 taking place in over 200 cities in the U.S. and countries around the world.
From Portland’s City Hall to Oregon’s Capitol, workers and a growing group of supporters have been calling on decision makers to give working families a fair shot by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In February, Portland’s City Council heard the message loud and clear, unanimously passing a $15 an hour minimum wage for all full-time City workers and contracted workers. Multnomah County also raised the minimum wage for all it’s employees to $15 an hour last December.
City workers, home care workers, food service workers, early childhood educatos, janitors and more joined in today’s march demanding $15. After a brief rally at O’Bryant Square, the march went straight across the street to the Pittock Building where they took over and shut down the lobby, releasing balloons and chanting in solidarity with janitors who work in the building.
Janitors in Portland recently announced their support for a $15minimum wage as part of their nationwide “Raise America” campaign. Mark Medina, a local janitor and member of SEIU Local 49 said, “We’re standing together – in Portland and across the country – as part of our Raise America campaign for a fair minimum wage. Workers in our community can’t wait. The landlord doesn’t wait and the electric company doesn’t wait, so neither can we. That’s why janitors are coming together and joining other workers across the country to fight for $15 and a union”
The demonstrated marched through downtown streets clogging traffic and targeting other low-wage employers including the City of Portland, which left some 2,000 part-time, seasonal, and temporary city workers out of it’s recent raise to $15, Aramark, which contracts low-wage food service workers at Portland State University, and PSU itself, which pays poverty wages to childcare and other classified staff.
We asked some low wage workers why they are fighting for a $15 minimum wage. Here is what they had to say:
“The $10 dollars an hour I earn does not go far enough to cover my groceries and bills. I go to two different food banks once a month just to have enough food for the month. I provide great care that seniors need and I work full time, I should be able to pay my bills. A $15 minimum wage would allow me to get out of survivor mode and stop depending on food banks.”
-Paula Likes, Homecare Worker.
“Portland State University Aramark workers are joining the $15 minimum wage fight. Workers are struggling to make ends meet even with two or three jobs. By raising the minimum wage, hardworking families have a fair shot at getting ahead. We urged PSU and Aramark to do the right thing.” -Nicole Stroup is a cook and the president of Aramark AFSCME Union Local 1336.
“For the past eighteen years I provided holistic care and education to children in the most critical years of their development. I earned a Montessori teaching certificate from the Montessori Institute of America, as well as a Child and Family Studies BA from Portland State University. I now work at Helen Gordon Child Development Center at Portland State University. After working hard for two decades teaching and advocating as an early childhood educator, I earn $13.82 an hour. I am a professional in a vital field, unfortunately early childhood educators are some of the lowest paid, albeit hard working and talented individuals out there. A living wage for early childhood educators is not radical, it is sensible. Paying early educators a living wage does not only improve life for young children it would ensure that a historically undervalued workforce made up of mostly women would have a chance to support their own families without being forced to be dependent upon spouses or public services.” -Christine Palmer, Associate Teacher-Portland State University.
Help 15 Now PDX continue to build the movement for a $15 minimum wage. Help us continue to lead a movement that can win more and bigger victories for Oregon’s working families. Make a donation and become a monthly sustainer of the campaign today, and sign up to be a volunteer!
On Monday evening at the Oregon State Capitol Building in Salem, community groups, labor unions, low-wage workers, and activists from throughout the state flooded the committee hearing room and spilled into overflow rooms to express strong support for a bill that would raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over three years.
Seattle and San Francisco both approved a minimum wage of $15 last year, and Oregon would be the first state to follow suit. At a press conference before the hearing, 15 Now Oregon representatives announced plans to file for a ballot measure this week, and to begin collecting signatures to qualify for the 2016 election.
Supporters of a $15 minimum wage urged legislators to initiate a floor vote on SB 610, and expressed concern that big business lobbyists were working behind the scenes to kill the bill. Dozens wore red T-shirts while hundreds more wore green buttons, all emblazoned with the 15 Now Oregon logo.
The hearing involved a joint session of the House Business and Labor Committee and the Senate Workforce Committee, where all the minimum wage bills were addressed. For hours, people testified about the need for a minimum wage high enough to get hardworking Oregonians out of poverty and off public assistance.
“I have nothing but empathy for the majority of low-wage workers as I make significantly more at $13 an hour, and live with the food insecurity and financial insecurity of poverty,” said Sarah Kowaleski, who is a part-time worker for the City of Portland at the Multnomah County Arts Center. “I am a city employee, a public servant. $15 an hour would make my economic life and work as a public servant sustainable.”
Beforehand in the rotunda, a volunteer dressed as Ronald McDonald taunted supporters about paying lobbyists to kill the bill for a $15 minimum wage. Representatives from 15 Now Oregon used the opportunity to announce plans to file for a ballot measure on Friday, and called on
specific legislators to take action. “Tina Kotek, Richard Devlin, Peter Courtney, and Kate Brown, will you stand with Oregon’s working families on this issue, or will you stand with McDonalds and other big businesses that pad their profits by paying poverty wages?” said Statewide Organizing Director Kristi Wright, as the crowd cheered while supporters unfurled a 15 Now banner.
Recent research has shown that a $15 minimum wage would will benefit the economy in general, and small businesses in particular. The Oregon Center for Public Policy found that a $15 minimum wage would create a pathway for working families to be more self-sufficient. This study directly refutes the “benefits cliff” argument raised by opponents of a higher minimum wage, who claim that the loss of public benefits for some workers would cancel out wage gains. In addition, OCPP found that a minimum wage increase would bolster small businesses, giving customers an additional $3 billion to spend, while also increasing worker productivity. The study states that “[a] better-paid worker is a better customer for small businesses.”
Stephen Michael of the Main Street Alliance of Oregon, a network of over 2,500 small business owners, agreed. “Too many Oregonians making up a sizable share of the full-time workforce remain dependent on public assistance programs, while corporate CEOs take home record profits,” he said. “Small business owners understand that a vibrant local economy is sustained by a virtuous cycle in which workers also play an important role as consumers.” The Main Street Alliance of Oregon has endorsed a $15 minimum wage.
15 Now Oregon is an independent community organization with active volunteers in Portland, Salem, Medford, Eugene, and elsewhere throughout the state. More than 80 labor unions, community groups, and small businesses in Oregon have endorsed a $15 minimum wage. To find out more, visit 15noworegon.org.
By Kristi Wright, 15 Now Oregon Statewide Organizing Director
In his March 26 article “$15 minimum wage bill dead in Oregon Senate,” Greg Stiles reports on what 15 Now Oregon has known all session. Since we first contacted Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, in December 2014, he has said he won’t allow SB 610 to come to the floor for a vote. As over half a million hardworking Oregonians struggle to get by on poverty wages, the fight for $15 will continue despite Courtney’s obstructionism.
Courtney says that raising the minimum wage to $15 over three years will harm our small-business economy. This fear is common throughout modern history, but it is not grounded in the facts. The Oregon Center for Public Policy reports that there is precedent for a wage increase of this size in Oregon, and that our state economy did well. That’s because when working families have more money to spend, they spend more money at local businesses.
15 Now Oregon had this bill drafted and submitted knowing that the chances of it passing through the Legislature were slim to none. We sought to inspire a serious conversation about a minimum wage high enough to get hardworking Oregonians out of poverty and off public assistance, and in that we succeeded. Our campaign for a $15 minimum wage has captured the public imagination, and started discussions at dinner tables from La Grande to Coos Bay.
We see this enthusiasm because working families have fallen behind as wages have failed to keep up with the cost of living. It is not because our economy is “slowly recovering,” as Medford/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce CEO Brad Hicks claims: in fact, the Oregon Center for Public Policy says that our state economy is growing at three times the national rate. Business is better than ever, and it’s time for Oregonians to collect the living wage they have earned.
Hicks repeats the discredited claim that Seattle’s phased-in minimum wage increase is costing the city small businesses and jobs. In an article titled “Local facts no match for national fiction on $15 minimum wage issue,” the Seattle Times called this claim “bogus” and quoted the owners of the businesses in question, who denied that the minimum wage caused or was at all associated with the closures. Hicks’ statements may fit his ideology, but they are inconsistent with the evidence.
Democrats like Courtney act as if paid sick leave and raising the minimum wage are mutually exclusive propositions. This shows how out of touch they are with working families. In a state where half of new jobs pay less than a living wage, and where there are nine job-seekers for every available living-wage job, hard work is no longer enough to get ahead. Oregonians deserve paid sick leave and a living wage, because no one who works should live in poverty.
The fight for $15 is alive and stronger than ever. 15 Now Oregon is organizing communities in Medford, Portland, and elsewhere throughout the state. Hundreds will attend the hearing in Salem on April 13 and demand a floor vote on a $15 minimum wage. If Peter Courtney will not provide real leadership on this important issue, then 15 Now Oregon will take it to the ballot in 2016. SB 610 may be doomed, but the fight for $15 will continue until we win.
(This article was first published as a Guest Opinion in the Medford Mail Tribune on Sunday April 5, 2015)
Right to Work is not inevitable in Oregon. There is still time to go on the offensive. It is likewise not inevitable that the $15 legislation will die in committee. Nothing is inevitable in politics. A large campaign by the unions can pressure Democrats into passing $15, and if that fails, an exciting union-led campaign can win $15 by championing a statewide voter initiative.
Organizers behind fast-food workers’ calls for a $15 hourly wage have been pushing a bigger national strategy. They hope to galvanize low-wage workers under the banner of civil rights.
The grassroots strategy and successful media campaign implemented by 15 Now PDX has steered the entire statewide conversation on raising the minimum wage toward $15. This work has led to tangible victories like a $15 minimum wage for all Multmonah County employees, and a $15 Fair Wage Policy for contract workers in Portland. These victories for $15 benefit the lives of real working people, and with your help we can win even more victories, bigger victories, including making Oregon the first state to win a $15 minimum wage.
Oregon is already the first state to have a serious conversation about a statewide $15 minimum wage, and we can be the first state to win $15. It is unlikely the state legislature will pass $15, but we can take it the ballot, we can win, and 15 Now PDX will be a leader in that effort.
To help us achieve this historic victory in the Fight for $15, 15 Now PDX is a launching a monthly sustainer fundraising campaign. Big business is going to throw down with the full weight of their unimaginable wealth in an effort to stop us. We won’t have big corporations throwing millions of dollars at us to win $15 like the opposition will have to stop it.
What we do have is even more powerful… We have you. Working people. Activists. Allies. People who understand that when you raise the floor, you raise everyone up with it. People who share our vision of an Oregon where no one who works lives in poverty.
Your contributions are vital to the success of this campaign. Knowing that we have the money coming in on a monthly basis to help cover our campaign costs is vital to a sustained and successful struggle. Monthly sustainers help provide the month-to-month financial stability we need to keep growing and fighting.
Our first goal is 500 monthly sustainers donating $15 per month to the campaign. If $5 or $10 per month is what you can afford, that is great too. If you can give more than $15 per month, please do. If you can only give a one time donation, we thank you for that as well.
At whatever amount you are able, with your help and sustaining monthly support we can continue to grow and win bigger and better victories for Portland and for Oregon’s working class!
No one who works should live in poverty. $15 Now!
(The photo at the top of this article was taken by Mark Colman)
Call out to all low-wage workers, labor unions, community organizations, Oregon residents, concerned citizens…
Income equality is out of control. The cost of living in Oregon continually outpaces the national inflation rate. Working families in Oregon increasingly have to rely on food stamps, Oregon Health Plan, and other public benefits because big businesses increase their profits by paying poverty wages to hard working people. Oregon taxpayers subsidize those poverty wages to the tune of more than $1.7 billion per year.
SB 610 will raise Oregon’s minimum wage and help bring working families out of poverty. This and other minimum wage bills have a public joint committee hearing at the state capitol building in Salem on Monday April 13th at 6pm.
Let’s pack the capitol and demand that our legislators be real leaders, that they take a stand for working people in Oregon, that the committees vote YES on SB 610 for a $15 minimum wage in Oregon. No one who works should live in poverty!
Attend the hearing! sign up to testify! Tell legislators why a $15 minimum wage will help you and your family, or someone you know! Don’t Kill The Bill! Demand a floor vote!
Let us know you are coming by RSVPing at https://www.facebook.com/events/423536561141274/
There will be a couple buses going from Portland to Salem. Buses will leave Porltand at 3:30 p.m. one from SE 26th and Powell, and one fro. A location still to be determined in NE Portland. Check back soon for the updates on the NE bus departure location. Buses will return to Portland when the hearing is over.
If you would like a seat on the bus please email us and tell us:
1) how many seats you need and the names of those who will fill those seats, 2) whether you want to depart from NE or SE Portland, and 3) a good contact phone number we can reach you at.
In the few weeks leading up to the hearing, please call the Democrat members of the committee and tell them DON’T KILL THE BILL! Demand a floor vote on SB 610 for a $15 minimum wage!
House Business and Labor Committee – HB 2009:
1) Rep. Shamia Fagan 503-986-1451
2) Rep. Brent Barton 503-986-1440
3) Rep. Margaret Doherty 503-986-1435
4) Rep. Paul Evans 503-986-1420
5) Rep. Paul Holvey (chair) 503-986-1408
6) Rep Rob Nosse 503-986-1442
Senate Workforce Committee – SB 610:
1) Sen. Michael Dembrow (chair) 503-986-1723
2) Sen. Diane Rosenbaum 503-986-1700
3) Sen. Sara Gelser 503-986-1708
Organized by 15 Now PDX, Portland Jobs with Justice, SEIU Locals 49 & 503, Oregon AFSCME, and LIUNA Local 483
Join PSU workers, janitors, food service workers, care providers, city workers, community and other allies here in Portland as we continue the Fight for $15 and a union!
Fast-food workers, homecare workers, Walmart workers, airport workers, convenient store workers and others are coming together to fight income inequality by demanding $15 and union. Across the country, workers have engaged in walkouts and one-day strikes to make their demands. On April 15 here in Portland, Janitors will be highlighted in joining in the national day of action and Fight for $15!
Join us at 12pm at O’Bryant Square in downtown Portland. We will have a short rally at the park and then we will march to various locations where workers in downtown Portland are currently engaged in the Fight for $15. There will chanting, marching, balloons, direct actions, and more!
Join us and Fight for $15. Because no one who works should live in poverty.
Organized by 15 Now PDX, Portland Jobs with Justice, SEIU Local 49, SEIU Local 503, AFSCME, LiUNA Local 483
Temporary workers represented by AFSCME Local 3580 won huge wage raises in their first negotiated contract this week. All those represented will get cost of living adjustments. Hazardous waste workers get a raise from $13.55 per hour to a minimum wage of $17.50 per hour. Zoo security wages go from $12 to a $15.75 minimum. Scale House workers also jumpy to a $15.75 minimum wage, and Program Animals workers at the Zoo jump to a minimum wage of $16.01.
These are huge gains and we congratulate the affected workers and the union representatives who fought for them at the bargaining table on huge victory.
A statement from AFSCME reads:
“After over three months of bargaining we have finally released an agreement. while not perfect, we feel we made some great gains, especially to wages. Big thanks to our Members, Jobs With Justice, and 15 Now for the support. Also, Metro management deserves credit for making positive movement that will help workers and the community for a long time.”
While this is a great victory for more workers, a victory that helps us gain momentum to build and win $15 for even more working people in Portland and across Oregon, we must recognize it as just that, a start. Portland Metro now joins Multnomah County and the City of Portland in not only recognizing, but in acting on the fact that anything less than $15 is not enough in the Portland area. We call on Metro Council to take further action to ensure that all Metro workers have at least a $15 minimum wage and a clear and unobstructed path to unionization regardless of their particular employment classification.
No one who works should live in poverty.