Oregon’s Governor Already Compromising on Minimum Wage…Again

Hardly a week has gone by since Governor Brown unveiled her grand compromise on minimum wage and she is already compromising again, watering down her proposal even more.

Originally, after almost a year of utter silence and complete lack of leadership from Governor Brown on this issue, she proposed $15.52 in six years for the 25 cities within the Portland urban growth boundary, and $13.50 in six years for the rest of the state with no restoration of local control over minimum wage laws. This plan was already a compromise from the previous session where a statewide $15 minimum wage over a shorter three year phase in—and the restoration of local control of minimum wage laws—were the only proposals with any traction.

Now after more secret negotiations and compromises, Brown’s proposal has been lowered to $14.50 and $13.25. What did not change about her proposal is the ridiculously long phase in of six years, which renders the raise virtually meaningless. What also didn’t change is that local control is still not restored. As we expected, local control was the first of many things to be compromised away in Democrats’ fetish for ensuring that anything they pass meets at least some scant approval of their corporate election funders.

True, workers get a smaller and insufficient raise a few months earlier. The original proposal called for a first step to $11.79 in the Portland area and $10.25 for the rest of the state on January 1, 2017. The new proposal has a first step of $9.75 in July 2016 for the whole state. That is $2 per hour less in the Portland area and 50 cents per hour less everywhere else. This new and further diluted proposal is not impressive. There is nothing here to get excited about.

It is, however, exactly what is to be expected from corporate politicians who are much more interested in playing games and brokering deals with wealthy business donors and lobbyists than they are in fighting for Oregon’s working families. Big business is getting exactly what it wants from their new Governor: the state legislature that they have purchased will continue to have singular control over minimum wage laws in the state—to the detriment of local economies—and businesses get a minimum wage increase with a phase in that is too long to be of any significant value in terms of ending poverty wages and ensuring that working families are self-sufficient.

As an organization that is lead and run by low-wage workers and their allies, we are having difficulty finding anything in this compromised proposal that is worth celebrating. It is one thing to sit in a well funded office and praise the proposal because low-wage workers get a smaller raise a little sooner than in the original plan. It is another thing to actually be that low-wage worker, to look at your next paycheck and realize that your pay is so low that you didn’t even notice the extra 50 cents per hour and that you really needed that other two dollar now.

A statewide $15 minimum wage is not only demonstrably what is needed in Oregon to ensure that working families are self-sufficient, but it also was and still can be a viable and winnable fight. Two years before the November 2016 election, a statewide $15 minimum wage was already polling favorably among a majority of likely Oregon voters. If the labor movement unites and stands strong for $15, if we work side-by-side to reignite a working class fighting spirit and build an empowered workers’ movement, then we can win the Fight for $15 and we can win it for all Oregonians.

That victory is still within reach. Let us unite and Fight for $15!

Oregon Governor’s Minimum Wage Plan Isn’t Good Enough

Governor Kate Brown has released the details of her proposal for increasing Oregon’s minimum wage. According to an article just published by the Oregonian, “Brown’s plan would set two rates for Oregon. One would cover the Portland metro area, as defined by the region’s urban growth boundary, and top out at $15.52 an hour. The other would set a $13.50 minimum for the rest of the state.”

$15.52 per hour for the Portland metro region sounds really great. Hey, it’s even higher than we’ve been demanding! Unfortunately, the region’s minimum wage would not reach that level until January of 2022, a six year phase in. That is entirely too long. 3 years longer than what is proposed in IP 41, the ballot initiative being run by the Oregonians for 15 coalition. The cost of living in the Portland area has, in fact, already surpassed the $15 minimum wage level. Study after study shows this to be the case. $15.52 in six years is, to be perfectly frank, not fast enough and not good enough.

$13.50 for rural Oregon in six years is not fast enough, it’s not good enough. The Alliance for a Just Society already places the self-sufficiency wage for the entire state, including rural Oregon, at $15.99 per hour. According to a 2014 Oregon Department of Human Services study conducted by Oregon State University, the hourly wage needed for a single parent with one child to be able to afford fair market rate, small home-based childcare without being cost burdened is $15 per hour or more in all but four of Oregon’s counties.

Furthermore, the minimum wage preemption law that prevents cities and counties from raising their own minimum wage needs to be repealed. The law is undemocratic. It is a tool of right wing corporate lobby powerhouses like ALEC whose mission is to limit and  repeal the rights and the gains that have been won by working people around the nation.

So while we applaud Governor Brown for recognizing that the Portland area needs at least $15, we are compelled to state that this plan is not good enough. It phases in too slowly, and it doesn’t create a statewide minimum wage that ensures working families can be self-sufficient.

IP 41 increases the minimum wage to $15 across the state over a 3 year phase in, by 2019. The initiative recognizes that $15 is also needed outside of the Portland metro area, and it gets us there on much more reasonable timeline.

The Oregon Center for Public Policy has shown that Oregon has had minimum wage increases of this size and speed in the past. Twice actually. Once during the late 80s and early 90s when the minimum wage increased by 42% over two years, and once during the 1970s when the state minimum wage increased by 80% over a four year phase in. Both of these were equivalent in size IP 41’s 60% increase over 3 years, with the wage increasing an average of about 20% per year in all three cases. After both large increases during the mid 70’s and the late 80’s, Oregon’s economy and small businesses grew and thrived.

 

 

Big minimum-wage hikes are nothing new in Oregon

by Mark Vorpahl (originally published by The Oregonian)

The headline of Garrison Cox’s Nov. 28 guest column may proclaim “‘Fight for Fifteen’ movement has its math wrong”, but his incomplete research and unsubstantiated conclusions fail to add up.

For instance, the article claims “…there is no research that recommends a $15 minimum wage.” What of economic research heavyweights like former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s article “Why the minimum wage should really be raised to $15 an hour,” or the Oregon Center for Public Policy’s “$15 minimum wage means real gains for workers”?

Unfortunately, it seems Cox slacked off with his homework by ignoring Oregon’s own history of large minimum wage hikes. Otherwise his worries about $15 being too “drastic” would likely be calmed.

Click Here to continue reading

The economic case for a $15 minimum wage is good

By Mary King

This article was originally published by The Oregonian on 12/12/2015.

Contrary to claims in a recent Oregonian/OregonLive guest column, the economic case for a shift to a $15 minimum wage over the next few years is based on very solid mathematical analyses by the best labor economists in the field. Their work predicts higher economic growth and therefore more tax revenue; lower business costs for turnover, recruitment and training; greater labor productivity and job satisfaction; lower poverty rates, particularly among single parents and young families; lower public expenditures for food stamps and other benefits; and a counter-force against spiraling income inequality in our state and nation.

The strength of the economic case for a substantially higher minimum wage surprises people who:  Continue Reading…

Students shut down PSU Board of Trustees meeting, demand $15 Now for all campus workers

by Justin Norton-Kertson

The Portland State University Board of Trustees received an ear-full from a crowd of dozens of students, campus workers, professors, and community members who packed today’s board meeting, and who are fed up with being ignored by university administration and leadership. The day’s action comes after years of being ignored, and was an escalation of a year of direct action by the Portland State University Student union (PSUSU) over the arming of campus security and a host of other issues.

PSU President Wim Weiwel with other members of the PSU Board of Trustees.
PSU President Wim Weiwel (center) with other members of the PSU Board of Trustees.

The day’s action also comes just weeks after the president of the Associated Students of PSU, Dana Gazi, issued a statement calling for a mass student movement. That statement mirrored many of the demands that have been made by PSUSU such as disarming campus police, free college tuition, cancelation of student debt, a living wage for all campus workers, and an end to business model higher education.  Gazi spoke at today’s meeting echoing much of the sentiment in their open letter.

Students spoke at the meeting about racism, Islamophobia, and a growing concern about open white supremacy on campus,  as well the arming of campus security, poverty wages paid on campus, student hunger and houselessness, the cutting of arts programs, bloated administrative salaries and perks, and a host of other issues that the board has all but ignored student voices on for years.  Continue reading

Flood the Capitol! – $15 Rally & Minimum Wage Hearing

For the past two years 15 Now PDX has lead the movement to win a $15 minimum and repeal the anti-worker, ALEC inspired law that prevents cities in Oregon from raising the minimum wage themselves. Multiple ballot measures have now been filed to raise Oregon’s minimum wage at the 2016 ballot, including a $15 initiative, an initiative to restore local control of minimum wage laws, and another for the lower number of $13.50.

This coming legislative session will be our last chance before the 2016 election to convince our legislators to do the right thing: pass a statewide $15 minimum wage, restore local control, and avoid a ballot fight. But they won’t do this unless we show up in Salem in overwhelming force of numbers and demand it. That means that we need your help. Low-wage workers and allies, labor unions, community groups, and supportive small businesses, rural and urban Oregonians unite, flood the capitol and demand $15!

On January 14, 2016 state legislators will be holding a public hearing on raising Oregon’s minimum wage. Join us at the capitol building for an afternoon rally and then the evening hearing where we will demand a statewide $15 minimum wage and local control with no one left out: not farm workers, not restaurant workers, not teenagers or new employees, and not rural Oregonians!

Stand up to corporations who are trying to keep wages low. No more poverty wage subsidies for big corporations! Anything less than $15 is not enough anywhere in Oregon. A regional minimum wage that leaves those outside of the Portland metro area with lower wages only helps increase region income disparity in our state and leaves rural Oregonians behind.

Join us and flood the capitol to demand $15 NOW for all of Oregon! There will be open public testimony. Have your voice heard!

See the Facebook event page

There will be free transportation available from Portland and back for those who need it. If you need transportation, or if you can be a carpool driver, then fill out this form and we’ll be in touch with you with more details in January.

Workers at PDX First Unitarian Church Win $15 and a Union

by Justin Norton-Kertson

As part of their first union contract, workers at the First Unitarian Church of Portland are guaranteed a wage of at least $15 per hour. This includes employees who are not part of the union, and is retroactive back to July 1, 2015.

The Portland Area Campaign for $15, which is being led by Portland Jobs with Justice, and of which 15 Now PDX is a part, is working to raise the minimum wage for at least 30,000 Portland area workers by 2017 through contract bargaining such as in the case of the First Unitarian Church, through voluntary commitments, and through new organizing campaigns for $15 and a union.

The following was originally published on the First Unitarian Church website on 11/19/15

Justice Begins at Home!

It was one year ago when some of our staff came into my office and requested recognition of a union for our employees. For almost nine months representatives of the employees and of the church administration have been in negotiation to craft an initial labor contract. Last spring, more than 300 individuals and families pledged additional financial support for increased wages to allow Justice to Begin at Home.

I am delighted to tell you that late last Tuesday, agreement was reached on our first labor contract. The members of the union approved its terms, as did the Executive Team. Last Sunday, the cost of the contract was approved by our Board of Trustees. The final document is being prepared for signatures, but agreement has been reached.

As promised when we raised the Justice Begins at Home funds, First Unitarian will now pay all of its employees at least a $15/hour minimum wage. That includes all employees, even those not in the union. The only exception is a six month probationary period for new employees. This significant raise will be retro-active to July 1. The benefits we offer, which are generous in the non-profit world, will remain undiminished.

A number of salaried employees, both in the union and outside, will also receive adjustments to their compensation. Most of these will be modest. Our goal remains to continue adjusting compensation for salaried staff as the congregation makes resources available.

We can be proud that we have taken a significant step toward the justice and equity our principles proclaim.

As we approach Celebration Sunday, we have much to be thankful for in this church community. The stars hung around the sanctuary speak of the inspiration, the support, the challenge and the love we create together in this place. We can now add our commitment to leadership in just compensation. The Beloved Community is built not only with words, but with our wallets. Our ability to fulfill the terms of this agreement depends on the continued generosity of the members of this community. Our gratitude for First Church needs to be matched with our willingness to support it.

I want to thank Nicole Bowmer, Jason Chapman and Nick Harrington who represented the union at the bargaining table. Also Rev. Tom Disrud and Pat Malone who represented the Executive Team. Special thanks to John Bishop, a congregant with extensive labor negotiation experience, who helped the process, not representing either side.

Last, but not least, thanks to all those who have waited patiently and all those who have contributed generously and all those who affirmed the need for the church to take this step. This achievement is all of ours to celebrate.

Blessings,

Bill

15 Now PDX Disrupts, Walks Out of Minimum Wage Hearing

by Justin Norton-Kertson

On Monday dozens of supporters of a statewide $15 minimum wage marched through the state capitol building. They spent the morning going from office to office in large groups, talking to legislators and their staff about the importance of a statewide $15 minimum wage, and the importance of repealing the anti-worker, ALEC inspired preemption law that helps keep wages below the cost of living by preventing cities and counties from raising the minimum wage above the state level.

That afternoon, the Senate Workforce Committee held an informational hearing on raising Oregon’s minimum wage at which only one affected low-wage worker was given space to speak. The committee was greeted by a room full of low-wage workers and supporters in red 15 Now shirts. With about 40 15 Now supporters at the hearing, their presence dominated the room. At one point, all the $15 supporters were asked to stand to show their support, almost everyone in the room stood up except for the few business interests present.

Legislators heard about the various minimum wage campaigns and ballot initiatives underway, and also heard from business owners and others who support raising the minimum wage. A few business owners and lobbyists came to speak against raising the minimum wage.

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Speaking about the campaign to raise the statewide minimum wage to $15 per hour, Justin Norton-Kertson expressed skepticism that Democrats can come together and do the right thing for Oregon’s low-wage workers and their families. Republican state senator Knopp, illustrating Republican disdain for working class issues, stood up and walked out of the room in the middle of Norton-Kertson’s presentation.

“We did this back in April…and we all know how that turned out. Nothing, right? And we all know that the issue isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats. Democrats have majorities in both houses…it’s Democrats who can’t agree among themselves. So I’m left wondering what the point of this is. Why should we believe that this session, which is only a month long, will be any different than last session. And if we were to get any minimum wage increase what would the compromise be? Would it be high enough for places like Portland, Eugene, Hood River, Bend, Corvallis, and Ashland? Would it leave out farmworkers or bring in a tip credit?”

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Norton-Kertson also said that their lack of faith in Democrats is why a $15 ballot initiative was filed so early, and that if lawmakers won’t do the right thing, that they should at least refer both $15 and the repeal of Oregon’s minimum wage preemption law to the ballot so that voters can decide and do the right thing themselves.

Immediately after he finished speaking, 15 Now supporters stood up and mic checked the hearing, reiterating the call for a statewide $15 and the restoration of local control of minimum wage laws. In a call and response pattern, they asked why low-wage workers weren’t invited to speak at the hearing. They read off a long list of job types and industries in Oregon that pay less than $15 per hour, and then walked out of the hearing en masse chanting “$15 now and local control!”

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Because Black Lives Matter! $15 NOW!
For homecare workers! $15 NOW!
For childcare workers! $15 NOW!
For janitors! $15 NOW!
For single mothers! $15 NOW!
For food service workers! $15 NOW!
For security guards! $15 NOW!
For nursing home workers! $15 NOW!
For retail workers! $15 NOW!
For rural Oregon $15 NOW!
For college campus workers! $15 NOW!
For city workers! $15 NOW!
For social workers! $15 NOW!
For farm workers! $15 NOW!
For farm workers! $15 NOW!

Click Here to view the video stream of the hearing and the mic check.

PSU Million Student March Highlights Poverty Wages Earned by Campus Workers

by Mark Vorpahl

Students in 100 cities, including Portland, walked out of class and into the streets today as part of the Million Student March. This show of united strength aimed to make their needs heard by a political establishment and a system of corporate higher education that plunges students into a bleak future of massive debt.

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Locally students and their allies gathered on the campus of Portland State University where they listened to the stories and struggles of fellow students, former students who are still in debt and working low-wage jobs despite having degrees, and campus workers earning poverty wages. From there they marched through the streets of downtown to the office of PSU President, Wim Wiewel, and to City Hall to make their demands heard.

1) Tuition-free public college

Until the 1970s and 1980s tuition was free at many public universities. Today, with massive cuts to public funding for education as well as privatization, tuitions are dramatically skyrocketing. This increasingly freezes out all but the most privileged from the degrees they will need for a good future, and saddles them with an un-payable debt. Higher education is a necessity in today’s world. Therefore, it should be viewed as a right and tuition-free public college is the only way to guarantee that this right is available for everyone.

2) Cancellation of all student debt

The total student loan debt is now more than $1.2 trillion, averaging $35,000 per borrower. Not even credit card debt reaches this staggering level. Such a burden not only hurts individual students, it hurts all of our communities because a community can’t prosper unless its members—who worked hard to get a higher education—aren’t weighed down with unfair debt with little available other than poverty wage jobs.

Photo by Malcolm Chaddock
Photo by Malcolm Chaddock

The only ones benefitting from this system of debt are the corporations and 1% who are being let off the hook from paying their fair share towards a public education system that trains their future workers. They should be made to pay and student debt should be eliminated to free up the money currently going to student loan payments to be spent in the economy.

3) A $15 minimum wage for all campus workers

No one who works should live in poverty. The practice of paying poverty wages to those whose labor keeps colleges running is especially at odds with these colleges’ purpose of providing the tools needed to lift up the quality of living for future generations. A $15 minimum wage for campus workers would not only help lift many thousands out of poverty, it would improve their morale, reduce workplace turn over, and increase workers’ motivation without the stressful distractions of needing to make ends meet on too few resources.

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Because these demands address immediate needs that unite students and workers and impact all of our communities, they have immense potential in finding an active echo in the broad public.

Currently these demands are not considered “realistic” by corporate politicians, including those who mouth support for a $15 minimum wage while doing nothing. The only way to make them act is to build a unified social movement powerful enough to make it unrealistic for these so-called leaders to ignore us without serious consequences. When students and workers come together in massive numbers they have the independent power to define what is politically realistic as opposed to the politicians with their cozy and profitable relations with big business.

The Million Student March could prove to be an historic bench mark for the growth of such a movement. But for that movement to become a reality we have to keep working, keep orgnanizing, and keep building.

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End Poverty Wages