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.