Portland Teachers, Teamsters, Oregon Nurses, and More Endorse $15 & ending preemption!

written by Justin Norton-Kertson

In the wake of recent local contract victories for a $15 minimum wage a slew of new endorsements have been coming in steadily.  Over the past week the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), Teamsters  Local 206, Oregon Nurses Association (ONA), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 49, and Professional & Technical Employees (PTE) Local 17 have all endorsed a $15 minimum wage for all of Oregon, as well the repeal of the state’s preemption law that prohibits cities and other local governments from raising the minimum wage for all workers.

PAT represents the K12 teachers at Portland Public Schools, which is Oregon’s largest school district. Early in 2014, when Portland’s teachers were on the verge of the walking out on strike, the community rallied behind them providing both material and moral support. Throngs of community members came together to figure out how to feed strikers, their families, and students who are on free and reduced lunch programs. People all over the city worked together to organize free childcare for families who could not afford to take time off work or pay extra money for daycare.

But it is not only the high degree of respect and solidarity this community has for our teachers that makes this endorsement so important, but also because they live their lives on the front lines of the War on Poverty. Not only do teachers provide our youth with tools that one day can hopefully help lift them out of poverty, but everyday teachers witness first hand the devastating effects that poverty has on some of our society’s most vulnerable. They see the effects that poverty has not only in students’ classroom performance, but also in their personal, peer, and family lives. This makes our teachers a vital ally in the Fight for $15 here in Portland and all of Oregon!

Teamsters Local 206 represents over 2,500 Portland-area workers in retail sales, distribution, and warehousing.

ONA was founded in 1904 and represents over 12,500 nurses. ONA is a constituent member of the American Nurses Association, and is also affiliated with the National Federation of Nurses.

SEIU Local 49 represents over 10,000 workers throughout Oregon and southwest Washington. The membership includes healthcare workers, security guards, and custodians. Local 49 is currently organizing subcontracted workers who work at the Portland International Airport such as fuelers, cabin cleaners, baggage handlers, ramp agents, ticket agents, wheelchair attendants and skycaps.

PTE Local 17 represents workers in Oregon and Washington such as engineers, information technology experts, and environmental and health experts, as well as professional and technical workers in other public sector fields.

15 Now PDX welcomes the endorsement of all of these unions, and looks forward to working together to build a strong and active coalition to Fight for $15!

The spreading fight for 15

Jamie Partridge, a retired postal worker and steering committee member of 15 Now PDX, reports on successes for the movement for a $15 an hour and a union.

LAST WEEK, public employees in Portland and the surrounding area became the latest group of Oregon workers to win a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

The workers, members of AFSCME Local 88, won the raise in the union’s new contract with Multnomah County. It is expected to be approved by the Board of Country Commissioners in December. Under the agreement, the pay for the county’s lowest-paid workers will rise to $15 by July 2016.

Local 88’s victory came soon after the news that two other groups of public-sector workers in Portland had won a $15 wage floor: seasonal park rangers, who organized a union with Laborers Local 483 the year before, and workers at Home Forward (formerly the Housing Authority of Portland), who are members of AFSCME 3135 and Laborers 290.

The Fight for 15 is spreading on the West Coast. The first breakthrough came in November 2013 when a referendum victory made Sea-Tac, Wash., the first city in the country with a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Unfortunately, a judge then ruled that the city didn’t have the authority to apply the new law to workers at the Sea-Tac International airport, which is by far the largest low-wage employer in town.

Read the full article here


Oregon Education Association Endorses 15 Now PDX

The Oregon Education Association (OEA) has joined the American Federation of Teachers Local 2277 and the Oregon School Employees Association as the latest union of education workers to endorse a $15 minimum wage for Portland and Oregon. OEA’s strong endorsement of 15 Now PDXincludes support to repeal the state’s minimum wage preemption law, as well as support for a ballot measure to win a $15 minimum wage for the entire State of Oregon (read the resolution of endorsement below).

Our teachers and school employees are vital allies in the Fight for $15. They not only see the many facets and effects of poverty first hand on a daily basis, but they see it in the faces of our society’s youngest and most vulnerable. As educators, mentors, and guides their work provides tools and resources to our children that can offer them a glimmer of hope, a chance of escaping the vicious cycles of poverty. Yet at the same time they witness on a daily basis the negative impacts that poverty has on our youth, both in their personal lives and in terms of their academic success. In this way, teachers and other education workers are front line warriors in the war on poverty. We thank OEA for their endorsement, and we look forward to working with them to bring a living wage to Portland and the whole state of Oregon!


OEA Board of Directors Resolution to Support Living Wage Organizing in Oregon November 8, 2014 Every Oregonian Deserves a Living Wage
Currently, $15 Now-PDX is the only Oregon organization working specifically to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in Portland and state-wide. They have been officially endorsed by Jobs with Justice and the National Association of Letter Carriers, Local 82. OEA members and members of many other unions, as well as non-union workers, are supporting their campaign Consistent with New Business Item 18, from the 2014 OEA RA, support for $15 Now-PDX will underscore OEA’s support for efforts to promote economic justice for all Oregonians. Raising the minimum wage, by improving the economic security for many more Oregon families, will certainly have a positive effect on the children of these families and their readiness for and success in school. Therefore, OEA will support the efforts of $15 Now-PDX and others to raise the minimum wage in Portland and across the State of Oregon. OEA will also support legislative efforts to repeal the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) sponsored preemption law that prohibits Oregon municipalities from raising the minimum wage and an initiative, with unions and community partners, to use the Oregon ballot measure system to achieve a $15 minimum wage.

Multnomah County Employees Win $15 Minimum Wage!

Another big victory for $15 in the Portland area!


A HUGE VICTORY for working families and AFSCME Union Local 88! The local wins a tentative agreement with Multnomah County to raise the minimum wage to $15 — Multnomah County is the first local government and largest public employer to have this agreement.

“Increasing the minimum wage to $15 is a small step toward continuing the work of bringing economic security for hardworking families in Oregon,” says Deirdre Mahoney-Clark, the president of Multnomah County Employee’s Union-AFSCME Local 88.

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Democrats win in Oregon, but will they fight for the working class?

While Democrats around the country are reeling over their various electoral defeats, including the loss of the U.S. Senate to the GOP, in Oregon the Democrats actually won gains and increased the size of their majority in both the State House and Senate while also retaining control of the Governor’s office.  Many around the nation are clearly disillusioned with Democrats, and these increased majorities in the Oregon Legislature provide Democrats with a real opportunity to push for and win substantial victories for Oregon’s working class.

Back in 2001 the restaurant lobby convinced our state legislature to enact a minimum wage preemption law that prevents cities and counties from raising the minimum wage. This law is a clear example of legislative pandering to big business. It demonstrates an utter disdain for local democracy and needs to be repealed by Democrats so that a city like Portland, which has higher cost of living than the rest of the state, can make the common sense decision to set their minimum wage at a level more appropriate to their individual community.

The minimum wage itself is currently only $9.10/hr in Oregon. This is not even enough for an individual, let alone a family to survive without being reliant on government assistance programs.  The Alliance for a Just Society’s “2013 Job Gap” study puts a living wage in Oregon, enough for a single individual to pay bills and save for emergencies, at $15.95/hr. For a family of 3-4 a living wage in Oregon is $30/hr.

Democrats in Oregon are in a clear position to win huge victories for the working class of our state. Democrats need to repeal the minimum wage preemption law that cripples local democracy and local economies. And they need raise Oregon’s minimum wage, but not to $11, $12 or even $13 per hour. The State Legislature needs to raise Oregon’s minimum wage to at least $15/hr during the 2015 legislative session so that working families can survive and thrive in our state.



Portland’s First Victories for a $15 minimum wage

Seasonal parks workers and workers for Home Forward in the City of Portland just won the first victory for $15 in the state of Oregon.

As part of a larger package of gains won by park rangers in their first contract negotiation with the city, seasonally hired parks workers  have won a starting minimum wage of $15.83 per hour, up from $12 per hour.

On the same day the news broke of the parks workers’ contract victory, a local government housing agency called Home Forward, formerly known as The Portland Housing Authority, announced it will begin paying its employees a minimum of $15 per hour.  LiUNA Local 296, Oregon AFSCME Council 75, and AFSCME Local 3135 worked hard to take this stand for and win a $15 per hour minimum wage. These two same-day announcements mark the first big victories for $15 in City of Portland and in the State of Oregon. Multnomah County workers with AFSCME Local 88 are also currently demanding a fair contract and a $15 minimum wage.

Portland’s park workers organized under Laborers’ Local 483 in 2013. Local 483 has been a strong advocate for a $15 minimum wage in the Portland area. This past year Local 483 also organized Oregon Zoo workers to demand a $15 minimum wage as part of their first contract negotiations. Although the zoo workers did not win that particular demand, Laborers’ Local 483 did not give up. They continued to organize workers around the demand for $15. Now, thanks to the courage of the parks workers and the steadfast organizing efforts of Local 483, Portland has won it’s first victory in the Fight for $15.

With these contract victory the City of Portland has recognized that a living wage, and thus an appropriate starting wage for our city, is at least $15 per hour. While we commend them for that, the City can and needs to go even further. Due to the state preemption law the City can’t raise the minimum wage for all workers in Portland, but they can raise the wage to $15 for the rest of the workers who are employed both directly and indirectly by the City.

Currently, 15 Now PDX and Portland Jobs with Justice are pushing for the City of Portland to revise it’s Fair Wage Policy. This policy, which was originally won thanks to a campaign initiated by Jobs with Justice,  sets the minimum wage for workers such as security guards, custodians, parking attendants and others who work at companies that contract with the City. That wage is currently only $10.38 per hour, which is not enough to survive in our city. Our city council needs to take the next step in providing a living wage for the worker’s of Portland by revising the Fair Wage Policy to $15 per hour plus benefits.

How You Can Help

We know that if we want the halls of power to move, they must feel pressure from below. After a successful community hearing on the Fair Wage Policy, our next step is get an official city council hearing on the policy. We need your help in pressuring our city council to have this hearing. We need you to call city commissioners and demand they hold a hearing on revising the City’s Fair Wage Policy to $15 per hour plus benefits.

Can you do even more than making phone calls? Volunteer with 15 Now PDX today, and make a donation to help us fund this important work.



Home Forward, formerly The Portland Housing Authority, implements $15 minimum wage!

Yesterday Home Forward announced that it will implement a $15 minimum wage for its employees. Formerly known as The Portland Housing Authority, Home Forward employees are represented by LiUNA Local 296 and AFSCME Local 3135 who worked together with Oregon AFSCME Council 75 to win a $15 per hour minimum wage for Home Forward employees.  Home Forward’s work is centered around finding decent and affordable housing for individuals and families who are challenged by economic hardship, disability, or other special needs.

Click here to read the statement released today by Home Forward

In the announcement Home Forward Executive Director, Michael Buonocore, discusses their work helping to provide housing for people who work hard yet still struggle with economic hardship and need assistance, the importance of raising wages in combating income inequality, and why this makes it important that Home Forward provides a $15 minimum wage for its own employees.

15 Now PDX applauds Home Forward for being a leader on the issue of fair wages, and commends them for paying their employees a a $15 minimum wage!

Click here to read the statement released today by Home Forward


Movement to Raise Minimum Wage to $15 Keeps Growing; Activists Demand Change to State Law

This article first appeared in Portland Occupier

“I’m here, and I’m tired, and I’m speaking out with all the strength that I have. We need 15 now.”

Those words, spoken by Janice Niag, a First Student bus driver, demanding changes to the City’s Fair Wage Policy summed up the feeling at SEIU Local 49 Hall on October 20. Over 100 people attended the community meeting organized by the 15 Now Oregon campaign, which has been gathering momentum for many months in its drive to get the City to change its minimum wage for contract workers to $15 an hour.

15 Now Oregon is also pushing the Oregon legislature to raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour and overturn the preemption clause that forbids local governments from raising the private sector minimum wage in their jurisdictions.

Niag was among a handful of people who gave anecdotal force to the litany of facts and statistics presented by Lewis and Clark College economics professor Martin Hart-Landsberg. Hart-Landsberg painted a bleak picture of the past 40 years, showing how the wealthy have gained vast control over the US political system through concerted effort that results in legislation and court decisions that continuously funnel more and more wealth upward. These changes–tax code makeovers, the diminution of people’s rights to organize, greater militarization of the economy and erroneously named free trade agreements–all contribute to an economy that “works very well for an increasingly small percentage of the population and that works very poorly for the rest of us,” Hart-Landsberg said.

Read the full article here

End Poverty Wages