Photo by Jamie Partridge

15 Now PDX Delivers Over 5,000 Signatures to Sen. Rosenbaum & Rep. Nosse at Economic Fairness Town Hall

Last Saturday State Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum and Representative Rob Nosse held an economic fairness town hall meeting in SE Portland. They and representatives from the AARP, AFL-CIO, and Family Forward Oregon discussed working class issues such as paid sick leave, the ability to save for retirement, and raising the minimum wage.

About 40 people were in attendance, most of them wearing 15 PDX buttons and holding bright red signs that read “15 Now: Oregon Needs A Raise.” On the minimum wage issue, the rhetoric from the legislators and organizational representatives was encouraging. Elana Guiney, the Oregon AFL-CIO’s state legislative and communications director, pointed to studies showing that a living wage in Oregon is between $16-19/hr, and the fact that inflation in Oregon is grossly outpacing the national rate was also discussed.

Indeed, the panelists seemed to be in unanimous agreement that state representatives should shoot as high as possible in terms of raising Oregon’s minimum wage during the 2015 legislative session. Furthermore, Senator Rosenbaum and Representative Nosse make it clear that they are not willing to compromise away a minimum wage law by agreeing to corporate watering down tactics such as tip credits, long phase ins, and multi-tiered sub-minimum wages.

When the Q&A portion of the town hall meeting began, there were a flurry of questions about the need for $15 and whether or not that need would be taken seriously at the legislative level. It was pointed out that 15 Now chapters are forming all over the state, that the list of organizations and unions endorsing $15 for Oregon is rapidly growing, and representatives of 15 Now PDX  delivered to Rosenbaum and Nosse over 5,000 signatures from residents all over the state of Oregon who support a $15 minimum wage.

While the tone of the meeting was positive and hopeful, neither Rosenbaum nor Nosse, nor the AFL-CIO (the represented organization most directly involved in the minimum wage fight) was willing to publicly endorse and be legislative leaders in the Fight for $15 here in Oregon.

What does this mean? It means that we have to keep building the grassroots, working class movement for a $15/hr minimum wage here in Oregon. We have to keep expanding our chapters and our coalition. We have to organize fast food workers to walk out on strike here in Oregon with the demand for $15 and a union. We need massive call in and letter writing campaigns to pressure legislators all over the state to take up the mantle of $15. We need to build enough pressure that local and state representatives, as well as business owners have no choice but to support and fight for $15 for fear that otherwise the working class kettle will boil over, that the bubble will burst. In short, we need you to join the fight, and we need you to get your friends, your family, and neighborhood involved as well!

There are variety of ways that you can help Fight for $15 in Oregon. Contact us about volunteering, joining a chapter, or starting a 15 Now chapter in your town. Make a one time donation to our fundraising campaign, or make a recurring monthly donation to the Fight for $15 in Oregon! You can also call your state reps and demand they fight for a $15 minimum wage for all Oregonians!

Written by Justin Norton-Kertson, 15 Now PDX cofounder and steering committee member.

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Don’t Settle For Less: $15 Now!

Shamus Cooke

Momentum is still growing for a $15 minimum wage. On August 4th150 cities rallied for $15 and union rights, with striking fast food workers engaging in civil disobedience. Meanwhile, San Francisco voters are expected to pass a $15 referendum in November, and Seattle starts to phase in $15 on January 1st. The city of SeaTac, Washington has lived under $15 all year, proving false the predictions of the 1% that economic collapse would ensue.

The savvier establishment politicians understand the populist wave of $15, and are taking action to stem the tide. For example, the mayors of Chicago, New York and Los Angeles have endorsed various versions of a $13 minimum wage, though Chicago’s mayor endorsing a $13 minimum wage for only city workers in 2018 isn’t likely to quiet the streets.

While elite politicians understandably fear the growing muscle of $15, many on the political left have underestimated its strength, dismissing the movement as a fluff campaign led by opportunistic unions. This narrative includes some valid criticisms but misses the big picture entirely.

The hidden power behind the $15 demand is the unpredictable dynamic it creates. When non-activist working people are suddenly activated on a national scale, the seeds of a social movement begin to sprout.

In the same way that people are demanding dignity and justice in Ferguson, the $15 minimum galvanizes previously inactive segments of the population. If masses of working people become politically active, thereby reflecting a conscious awareness of a battle between opposed social classes, then the social-economic equilibrium of the country favoring the 1% begins to shake. An emerging threat to the balance of power is ultimately what’s terrifying the politicians.

The “fight for $15” is the first time in decades that working class people have been inspired by a bold demand. Two years ago $15 was a ridiculous pipe dream. But now $15 is starting to materialize, proving to millions of onlookers that it’s achievable. Hopelessness can turn into hope and powerlessness into power when $15 is fought for and won. Winning a once-impossible demand inspires confidence to make new equally impossible demands.

If the Occupy movement had been armed with the $15 demand, its reach would have widened to broader layers of the community, helping expand the movement’s life. The $15 movement is one of Occupy’s many children; no movement engaged the nation more over income inequality, but Occupy failed to raise any demands or solutions.

The most direct route to attack income inequality and poverty is a $15 minimum wage, which would directly benefit 51 million people and indirectly help 30 million more, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The era of corporate-dominated national politics and the accompanying inequality in wealth adds an extra layer of power to $15: we are midway through a period of uncontrollable neoliberalism, where a demand for $15 directly confronts the ceaseless attacks on working people’s living standards.

Of course, millions of people who make less than $15 an hour don’t need this explained to them. The demand is automatically accepted, in the same way it is automatically rejected by the elite, who stand to lose $billions in profits to rising workers’ wages.

Another vital component of the $15 demand is the role of organized labor, whose ranks include millions more working people. Unions birthed the $15 demand in 2012 with SEIU-organized fast food strikes. This then led to unions successfully winning $15 in SeaTac, Washington, and then Seattle.

Labor’s connection to $15 has shown non-union people why unions matter. After decades of political irrelevance because of their willingness to accept concessions without a fight, unions are beginning to wake up; and only unions could have launched the $15 movement so successfully, since they remain the only working class organization with enough resources to successfully engage battle with the 1%.

The normally timid voice of unions is due to their links to the Democratic Party, which consistently insists that unions water down their demands to appease the 1%, thus inspiring nobody. Union politics have bored union members and the community for years. The $15 demand is thus a break from boring union politics and a break with the Democrats in action over a serious issue, which all activists — union and non-union — should encourage.

The ultimate reason why $15 inspires working people is that it connects with their desire for a dignified life. This sentiment lies at the core of revolution. The Arab Spring consisted of average people raising the voices after decades of political invisibility, in a region of mass unemployment, growing inequality in wealth, growing poverty, and unresponsive political elites. In the U.S. the defeat of segregation was directly challenged by the simple yet profound slogan “I Am a Man,” which reflected the broad-based demand for dignity among African Americans.

The tens of millions of working poor and unemployed in the U.S. are beginning to demand dignity, with potentially profound implications. A $15 minimum wage will not solve all of our society’s social problems, but it can trigger a powerful process for social change that has been absent in the U.S. for decades.

A national $15 minimum wage can be won if average people are inspired to join labor and community groups in the streets in ongoing actions. It takes a living wage like $15 to inspire action in the streets, while the Democratic Party’s demand of $10.10 — or slightly higher — does not. Keeping momentum towards $15 is vital; therefore $10.10 is not a step in the right direction but a barrier to $15, since it blocks energy at a crucial moment.

The national demand is $15 because it is a living wage, although just barely. The movement doesn’t have to settle for less than $15, now.
– See more at: http://workerscompass.org/dont-settle-for-less-15-now/#sthash.5msJKGA8.dpuf

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The Fight for $15 Spreads Throughout Oregon

15 Now PDX began its work in February 2014, and for some time was going at it alone in the fight for a $15 minimum wage in Oregon. Being concentrated in the Portland area necessarily meant that the campaign had a local focus, and that fact made it easy for Portland’s city council and Big Business entities such as the Portland Business Alliance to brush the thought of us aside little comment due to the fact that a state preemption law prevents municipalities within Oregon from raising the minimum wage for all workers in their jurisdiction.  However, facts on the ground are beginning to change.

As the Fight for $15 in Portland and the rest of the U.S. continues to build and gain momentum in the wake of Seattle’s victory, a number of new 15 Now chapters are popping up and forming all over the State of Oregon. Nascent chapters now exist and are beginning to build and take action from Beaverton to The Dalles, to Salem, Eugene, and Medford.

Inflation in Oregon has doubled that of the national rate in recent years while employment and income gains for the working class remain stagnant. In addition, recent studies by both the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Alliance for a Just Society  show that a living wage for workers in the State of Oregon is around $16/hr. As 15 Now continues to build and spread throughout Oregon, and our state legislature prepares to try and raise the state’s minimum wage during the 2015 legislative session, they will not be able to ignore these facts, nor will they be able to ignore the groundswell of grassroots, working class support for a $15/hr minimum wage in Oregon!

But we need your help to make $15 a reality for Oregon! Can you volunteer to Fight for $15 in Oregon? Click here to contact us about joining or starting a local chapter in your city. Can you make a monetary contribution to help us fight the big money that big business is going to spend to stop the working class from getting its fair share? Click here to donate to our current fundraising drive or you can click here to make a monthly donation!

Written by Justin Norton-Kertson, 15 Now PDX cofounder and steering committee member.

ILWU Local 8 Endorses $15 Minimum Wage for Oregon!

For the last 18 months ILWU Local 8 (along with other ILWU Locals 19, 21, and 23) has been embroiled in a labor dispute that has kept Local 8 locked out of the ports for over a year.  This past week that labor dispute was resolved and a new contracted was agreed upon. Today the workers of ILWU Local 8 and their fellow locals went back to work.

15 Now PDX published a statement of endorsement for ILWU Local 8 this past May, and we would like to congratulate them on their new contract. We would also like to thank Local 8 for taking the time, in the midst of their own contentious labor dispute, to take a stand for all workers in Oregon by endorsing a $15 minimum wage for our state.

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In the resolution passed by ILWU Local 8, they endorse a $15 minimum wage for all workers in the City of Portland and the State of Oregon. The resolution also endorses the repeal of the state’s preemption law, which prohibits cities and municipalities from raising the minimum wage except in the case of city workers and companies that contract with the City of Portland. Finally the resolution also calls for the immediate raising of the minimum wage in the City of Portland to $15/hr for all city workers and workers at companies that contract with the City.

15 Now PDX thanks ILWU Local 8 for their strong resolution of endorsement, and looks forward to working with Local 8 to continue building a strong low-wage worker, community and labor coalition to win the Fight for $15 in Oregon!

Written by Justin Norton-Kertson, 15 Now PDX cofounder and steering committee member.

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AFSCME Local 328 Endorses $15 Minimum Wage for Portland & Oregon!

This past week the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME Local 328 became the latest in a string of local and statewide labor unions to endorse a $15 minimum wage in Oregon, creating a new wave of momentum within 15 Now PDX and the movement to raise Oregon’s wage floor.

The resolution states that AFSCME Local 328 supports a $15 minimum wage locally here in portland as well as for the whole state of Oregon. It also endorses the repeal of the state’s preemption law, which prevents municipalities in Oregon from raising the minimum wage locally, and calls on Portland City Hall to immediately raise the minimum wage to $15/hr for all city workers and contractors.

AFSCME Local 328 is composed of some 5,300 employees of Oregon Health & Science University. The university includes nursing medical, dentistry, and pharmacological schools, as well as VA services and a state-funded hospital. While Local 328 works to ensure a good contract, benefits, and a safe working environment for its members, the passage of this resolution is an inspiring example of a labor union reaching out beyond the scope of its own membership to fight for the entire working class.

Written by Justin Norton-Kertson, 15 Now PDX cofounder and steering committee member.

 

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Sign the Petition for 15NOW in Oregon

Sign the petition demanding our state legislature take action to make Oregon the first state to implement a minimum wage of $15/hr!

$9.10 per hour is not enough to survive in the State of Oregon, especially if you have a family. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Out of Reach 2013 report, a single mother in Oregon has to work 72 hours per week at minimum, or make at least $16.38 per hour at 40 hours per week in order to provide adequate and affordable housing for her and her children. Our state prides itself on being progressive and innovative, and so it is time we come together as a state to ensure that everyone who lives and works in Oregon makes a wage on which they can survive. No one who works should have to live near or below the poverty line. No one who works should have to rely on government assistance programs to survive and feed their children. Oregon needs $15 Now!

Sign Here

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SEIU 503 Endorses 15 Now , Statewide Ballot Measure for $15 in Oregon!

Hundreds of elected delegates of SEIU Local 503, which represents over 55,000 Oregon workers, gathered last weekend at their statewide convention in Albany, Oregon.   

At the convention the delegates voted by a large majority to pass a resolution that makes SEIU 503 an official endorser $15 Now PDX.  The resolution also makes it a “legislative priority” for SEIU 503 to repeal the ALEC-sponsored preemption law, which prohibits municipalities in Oregon from raising the minimum wage. The resolution concludes with a major pushback against corporate greed in Oregon, with SEIU supporting “an initiative with unions and community partners to use the Oregon ballot measure system to achieve a $15 minimum wage.”

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SEIU has been instrumental across the country in organizing fast food workers to fight for $15 and a union, it was important to winning the Fight for 15 in Seattle.  Now SEIU 1021 is leading the current $15/hr ballot initiative fight in San Francisco.

15 Now PDX is thrilled by SEIU 503’s action of endorsement. This is the third statewide labor endorsement for $15 in Oregon, and we welcome SEIU 503 to be an active member of the coalition fighting for $15 in Oregon. With the support of the community, the low wage working class, and strong union allies like SEIU 503, OSALC, OSEA, and LiUNA 483, we can take the Fight for 15 to the whole state of Oregon.  With the help of the statewide unions 15 Now PDX can be transformed into 15 Now Oregon, bringing a living wage to every worker in our state!                                                                                                                  

But accomplishing this task will take a strong coalition of community support dedicated to mobilizing the low-wage workers of Oregon’s working class, and building a movement for $15 at the grassroots level.  Ann Montague, the SEIU 503 leader who wrote the resolution sees $15 Now as an important coalition to move the issue forward in Oregon, “We need to all work together to build a movement to support the demand of a living wage for low wage workers.  Low wage worker organizing paired with the solidarity of community partners will be a winning combination!”

But Big Business is going to throw at us everything they have to try and stop us from bringing a $15/hr living wage to Oregon.  We need volunteers, monetary donations, and more organizational endorsements to make victory a reality.

Can you contribute $5, $10, $15, $25, $50, $100 to the Fight for 15 in Oregon? Can you volunteer? Will you or your organization endorse the Fight for $15 in Oregon? With your help we can win the fight and strengthen Oregon’s working class!

15 NOW!

Click Here to Donate

Click Here to Volunteer

Written by Justin Norton-Kertson, 15 Now PDX cofounder and steering committee member.

AFSCME Local 88, OSEA Endorse $15/hr minimum wage for Portland and Oregon!

The Fight for 15 is really starting to grow and gain momentum here in Oregon as more organizations and residents stand up and get involved in the movement.

Zoo workers, grassroots campaign workers, signature gatherers, and seasonal maintenance workers in Portland have all begun demanding a $15/hr minimum at the bargaining table. 15 Now PDX is working hard to support each in any way possible.

Today, 15 Now PDX is thrilled to announce that two more labor unions have just joined the Oregon State Association of Letter Carriers and the Laborer’s International Union of North America Local 483  in endorsing the Fight for 15 in City of Portland and the State of Oregon.

OSEAThis past week the Oregon State Employees Association (OSEA) and  the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 88 (AFSCME) voted to endorse a $15/hr minimum wage for Portland and all of the state of Oregon.

AFSCMELocal88Logo15 Now PDX is excited and looking forward to working with OSEA and AFSCME Local 88 in any way possible to help bring a strong $15/hr minimum wage to Oregon, but we can’t do it without a lot of help! Corporations and Big Business are prepared to spend millions, they are going to do everything they can to stop Oregon workers from winning a living wage.

We have the opportunity to make Oregon the first state in the nation to implement a $15/hr minimum wage, but we need your help to combat the Big Money that Big Business will spend to stop us. Can you contribute $15, $25, $50, $100 dollars to support the Fight for $15 in Oregon? Can you donate some time and volunteer to help make $15 Now a reality in Oregon? 

Together, in solidarity, $15 NOW!

Written by Justin Norton-Kertson, 15 Now PDX cofounder and steering committee member.

MSN Media – Portland Small Business – Endorses $15/hr Minimum Wage

When the idea of a $15 minimum wage came up Matt Navarre, owner of MSN Media, a local small business here in Portland, thought it was a no brainer. He said in a very straightforward manner,

The current minimum wage is not even close to a living wage. People have to be able to pay their bills and survive.

MSN Media has taken on three employees so far, and also uses several contractors to create custom software for public heath and other Multnomah County and the State of Oregon government agencies, as well as private company clients. All employees and contractors who work for MSN Media make at least $15 per hour, and all employees are provided with health insurance through the company. In fact, the lowest paid employee, a trainee, starts at $15/hr. msn_logo_03b Navarre says that it is not just a matter of whether his company can afford to pay a living wage, but that as a business owner who has chosen to grow his business by taking on employees paying a living wage is his responsibility. When asked about this sense of responsibility and why he endorses a $15/hr minimum wage for all all workers in the City of Portland and the State of Oregon, Navarre reiterated,

We support a raise in the minimum wage to $15 because the current minimum is not close to a living wage. As an employer, part of my responsibility is to look after the fiscal health of my staff, and ensure they have a living wage. 

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Matt Navarre – Owner of MSN Media

Navarre says he sees the benefit that paying a living wage has on his own staff, and he believes that a $15/hr minimum wage for the whole city will benefit both his own business and the workers of Portland:

This will benefit my business, the happiness of my staff, and the citizens of Portland. The higher wage will give me a greater pool of people to hire as future employees, and a wider, better range of potential clients.

In this comment Navarre touches on some of the myths and propaganda that has been created by Big Business to elicit fear at the thought of raising the minimum wage, primarily the scapegoating of small businesses. We are told that raising the minimum wage will be bad for small businesses, that they will be forced to move to neighboring cities with lower wages, or else close down. Either way jobs will be lost.

But Navarre understands the when the minimum wage is increased, the outcome is actually the opposite of the doomsday scenarios painted by Big Business in their attempts to amass and cling to the wealth created by their workers. He understands that when employees are paid well they perform better and increase their productivity, which saves companies money. He gets that when workers make a living wage they can pay their bills and have extra money to spend. He knows that this benefits local businesses and increases their sales and profits. He understands that a $15/hr living wage is good for everyone. It is good for workers, it is good for businesses, and it will be good for the whole City of Portland and the whole State of Oregon.

Written by Justin Norton-Kertson, 15 Now PDX cofounder and steering committee member.

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LiUNA! Laborers’ Local 483 Endorse $15 for Portland & Oregon!

 

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Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA), which is union of construction workers and other public service employees, has half a million members and is considered to be “the most progressive, aggressive and fastest-growing union of construction workers, and one of the most diverse and effective unions representing public service employees.”

In May of 2014 LiUNA organized the most successful Living Wage Wednesdays that Portland has seen so far. 75-100 people marched to City Hall, chanted “15 Now!,” engaged in guerrilla street theater, and went into City Hall to deliver letters in support of a $15/hr minimum wage to the City Commissioners.

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For months now Oregon Zoo workers represented by Local 483 have been demanding a $15/hr minimum wage in their first contract negotiations with Metro.

And last night, working with 15 Now PDX, rank and file zoo worker-members of Laborers’ Local 483 introduced a resolution endorsing 15 Now PDX and the Fight for $15 in Oregon. The resolution passed with unanimous support. When the floor was opened for discussion of the resolution, the only comment offered came as a shout from somewhere in the crowd of laborers, “It’s about time!” Read the text of the resolution here.

We at 15 Now PDX are excited and look forward to continuing our support for the Zoo workers, as well as working with LiUNA to build a strong coalition of union and non-unionized labor, economic and social justice advocacy groups, and community members to win a $15/hr minimum wage in the city of Portland and the state of Oregon.

Written by Justin Norton-Kertson, 15 Now PDX cofounder and steering committee member.

End Poverty Wages