There’s Oregon Precedent for a Big Minimum Wage Increase

by Chuck Sheketoff

If the Oregon legislature raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018 in three steps, as proposed by HB 2009, it would not be the first time lawmakers enact a substantial minimum wage increase.

In 1989, Oregon lawmakers raised the minimum wage, which then stood at $3.35. The result: By January 1, 1991, Oregon’s minimum wage was $4.75. That’s a 42 percent increase over two years. Oregon’s economy did well following the increase. That’s not to suggest causality, but rather to note that a substantial minimum wage increase can go hand-in-hand with solid economic growth.

In 1950, the federal minimum wage — which set the floor in Oregon at the time — jumped 88 percent, thanks to congressional action.

How do these historical increases from Congress and the Oregon legislature compare to the increase proposed in House Bill 2009?



Over the first two years of implementing HB 2009’s phased increase, the minimum wage would rise 43 percent. When fully implemented on January 1, 2018, Oregon’s minimum wage would be 62 percent higher than it is today.

Too many working Oregonians are struggling to make ends meet. There’s precedent to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2018.

This post was originally published on Blue Oregon on February 20, 2015. 

Portland City Council Unanimously Passes $15 Fair Wage Policy

Community groups, labor unions, workers, and other supporters of a $15 minimum wage packed City Hall so full that the balcony had to be opened for overflow. They came out to testify at a Portland City Council hearing the city’s Fair Wage Policy, expressing their support for updating that policy to a $15 minimum wage.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman called the hearing and presented a resolution, co-sponsored by Mayor Hales, which amends the Fair Wage Policy to a $15 per hour minimum, and directs the Bureau of Human Services to develop a plan to assess the level of compensation for so-called “casual” workers.


Passage of a $15 Fair Wage Policy would affect about 175 janitors, security guards, parking attendants and others who work for companies that contract with the City of Portland. Linda Sporer, who works at the Portland Building said, “As a security officer, I have a serious responsibility to keep people safe. When I get home, I have an added responsibility to do everything I can to support my family. This wage increase will make a real difference – giving me the resources to get ahead instead of barely getting by.”

Updating the Fair Wage Policy helps hard working people in Portland, and will be an important victory in the growing movement for a $15 minimum wage. “The Fair Wage Policy here in Portland is the first step in raising the minimum wage to $15, not only for all city workers, but for all who live and work in Portland,” says Tamara Kneese of 15 Now PDX.  

During his State of the City address Mayor Hales announced support for raising the Fair Wage Policy to $15, and also all permanent, full-time city workers. But the proposal leaves out 1800 so-called “casual” parks department employees who are working less than full-time hours, on poverty wages. In fact, much of the public testimony focused on this next phase of the local Fight for $15, as speaker after speaker lined up to demand that so-called “casual” city workers not be left out.


One of these so-called “casual” employees is Icarus Jacoby Smith, who works at the Mount Scott Community Center, “Part-time seasonal workers are an integral part of the Parks Department.  We are here making sure that the parks, pools, and facilities are kept safe and enjoyable year-round.  I think it’s time our wages reflect a certain level of recognition for the work we do in this community.” 

At the hearing 15 Now PDX, Portland Jobs with Justice, SEIU Local 49, which represents workers affected by the Fair Wage Policy, and LiUNA Local 483, which represents parks workers, showed support for the Mayor’s plan, but called on the City Commissioners to set up a contingent workers task force to produce a concrete plan for creating more full-time jobs that would be covered under the currently proposed $15 minimum wage for city workers, to redefine “casual” to be more accurate and limited in use, and to raise the minimum wage to $15 for all city workers regardless of their classification or number of hours worked.

Public testimony on the issue lasted for hours as community members, union and community organization representatives, faith leaders, and low-wage workers spoke out in favor of a $15 minimum wage for contract workers, city workers, and for all working people in the City of Portland. Not one person spoke in opposition. 

During the hearing, Commissioner Fritz introduced a number of amendments to the council resolution. Among those amendments was one to limit the increase to $15 in the Fair Wage Policy to full-time contract workers only (in addition to 18 full-time, permanent city workers that are separate from the Fair Wage Policy), and another to ensure the contingent worker task force will be finished with its work in time for the next budget cycle. She also announced plans to amend her current budget request to include a $15 minimum wage for all seasonal city maintenance workers starting in their second year of employment.

15 Now PDX opposes any attempt to limit the $15 minimum wage to full-time workers only, but also applauds Commissioner Fritz for championing a $15 minimum wage for seasonal maintenance workers.

At the end of the hearing, the City Council voted unanimously to raise the city’s Fair Wage Policy to $15 per hour. Justin Norton-Kertson, organizer for 15 Now PDX said in response, “This is a huge victory for the Fight for $15 here in Portland, in the State of Oregon, and across the country. We applaud the Mayor and commissioners for pushing this through, and we call on them to continue working to ensure $15 now for all city workers.”


Make no mistake. This victory comes as the result of a hard-fought, grassroots, bottom up campaign of low-wage city workers and activists coming together, building coalitions, and building a movement with the strength to push our city council to action. Commissioner Fish said himself, “We’re here because the community has spoken,” specifically citing the work of 15 Now PDX, Jobs with Justice, and other partners who worked together to win this the Fair Wage Policy victory.

And that battle for the Fair Wage Policy has now been won. It is a great first step for the Fight for $15 here in Portland. But it is one battle, one step. We still have much more work to do. There are contractors and part-timers who have been left out of the revised Fair Wage Policy that need to be included. We need to win $15 for all city workers, for all working people in the City of Portland, and for the whole State of Oregon.

We can win these victories, but we need your help to do it! Become a volunteer today, or make a donation to the campaign fund and help us continue the Fight for $15. With your help we can win even bigger victories for Oregon’s working class!

Great Progress for Oregon Workers: Who Would be Affected by Raising the State Minimum Wage to $15 by 2018?

)Compiled and first published by the Oregon Center for Public Policy)

Raising Oregon’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018, a proposal currently before the legislature, would constitute great progress for Oregon working families.[1]

Here are preliminary estimates of the impact of the proposed raise:[2]

Number of workers helped: By 2018, about 589,000 workers would likely see their wages rise directly as a result of the increase.[3] At the same time, another 114,000 workers earning above $15 would also likely see their wages increase indirectly as employers adjust overall pay ladders.

Total wages gains: As a group, workers benefiting directly and indirectly[4] from the increase would gain about $3.2 billion in additional wages during the three-year implementation period.

Workers’ gains: The gains of particular workers due to raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would depend, of course, on their current hourly wage and number of hours worked. At the high end of the range, Oregonians currently earning the minimum wage of $9.25 and working 35 hours per week would gain $10,465 in yearly income, or $872 per month, assuming their work hours stay the same.[5]

Families with children helped: About a third of all workers directly benefiting from the increase have children. Among all single-parent workers in the state, almost half (47 percent) would experience wage gains directly as a result of the minimum wage increase.

Age of workers helped: Among workers directly affected by the increase, about 93 percent would be 20 years or older. About three-quarters (74 percent) would be 25 years of age or older. About two out of five (39 percent) would be 40 years of age or older.

Gender of workers helped: Among workers directly affected by the increase, about 53 percent would be women and 47 percent would be men.

Full-time workers helped: About 61 percent of workers who would gain a raise would be full-time workers, defined as 35 hours or more worked per week. Another 30 percent of those helped would be Oregonians working between 20 and 34 hours per week.

College-educated helped: Among those directly affected by the increase, about 55 percent would have at least some college education. About 16 percent would have a college degree or higher.

[1] HB 2009 would raise Oregon’s minimum wage from the current $9.25 to $15 hour in three steps: $11.50 in 2016, $13.25 in 2017, and $15 in 2018.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, these estimates come from analysis by the Economic Policy Institute of Current Population Survey, Outgoing Rotation Group public use microdata, 2013Q4-2014Q3.

[3] Directly affected workers would see their wages rise because the new minimum wage rate would exceed their current hourly pay.

[4] Indirectly affected workers are those whose wages are not far above the proposed new minimum wage. They would receive a raise as employer s adjust pay scales upward in response to the new minimum wage.

[5] OCPP analysis.

$15 Minimum Wage Legislative Call-in Day TODAY!

HB 2009/SB 610 will raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $15/hr. The bill has been referred to the House Business and Labor Committee and the Senate Workforce Committee. The bill has to pass out of this committee if it is going to move to the floor for a vote. So we need to flood the phone lines of those committee members with calls in support of $15. Tell them to vote yes to raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $15, because in Oregon no one who works should live in poverty!

House Business and Labor Committee – HB 2009:
1) Rep. Shamia Fagan 503-986-1451
2) Rep. Bret 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 (sponsor of $15)

Senate Workforce Committee – SB 610:
1) Sen. Michael Dembrow (chair) 503-986-1723 (sponsor of $15)
2) Sen. Diane Rosenbaum 503-986-1700 (sponsored $15 and $12 bills)
3) Sen. Sara Gelser 503-986-1708

It’s really quick and easy. All you have to do is call and say:

“Hi my name is_________. I want to tell Representative (Senator) ____________ to vote for a $15 minimum wage for Oregon. Because no one who works should live in poverty.”


“…Because we need to get working people out of poverty, off government assistance, and save taxpayers over $1.7 billion per year.”

Statewide small business alliance endorses $15 minimum wage for Oregon

One of the most frequent questions and concerns about raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour in Oregon is the effect it will have on small, local businesses. Won’t a $15 minimum wage cause small businesses to lay off employees and even shut down?

While studies of actual minimum wage increases consistently show that businesses fare better in states with higher minimum wages, the effects on small business is still a concern for many people, especially in a place like Oregon where people care so deeply for small businesses and the local economy.

This week Main Street Alliance of Oregon endorsed a $15 minimum wage, putting to rest the idea that small business can’t afford and won’t support a $15 minimum wage. Main Street Alliance of Oregon is a coalition of small business owners. From realtors to retailers, and veterinarians to family farmers, “Main Street Alliance of Oregon works to build a brighter future and a stronger economy for all of us.”

Stephen Michaels, State Director for Main Street Alliance of Oregon says, “the businesses we work with support $15 because  our businesses thrive and prosper when customers have money in their pockets to spend.”

These small businesses know that treating their employees well is good for business. They understand that people need to be able to afford to buy the products and services small businesses are selling if our economy is to thrive. They understand that when more people have more money to spend, the economy and small businesses benefit. And for this reason Main Street Alliance of Oregon has endorsed and supports a $15 minimum wage.

Join 15 Now, the Main Street Alliance, and almost 70 other labor, community, and business organizations and Fight for $15 in Oregon. No one who works should live in poverty. Together we can win!

$15 and full time for city workers is simply a matter of priorities

After reading the Oregonian Editorial Board’s response to Mayor Hales’ plan to raise contract workers and some city workers up to $15 per hour in wages, we are disappointed by the inconsistency and false choices inherent in their argument.

The Editorial Board laments the cost and economic consequences of spending $600,000 to $1 million to start increasing wages up to $15 per hour, but no mention is made of any potential negative consequences of using the same amount of money of create more full-time jobs in the parks department. Perhaps because there are no negative consequences to either. Perhaps because it is common knowledge that higher wages and more full-time jobs are good for a local economy and necessary for healthy communities.

As the only piece of evidence of the negative consequences of raising wages, the Editorial Board references a study of a hypothetical situation. It makes more sense to point to the many studies of actual, real wage raises that show no discernible effect on employment and that higher wages are actually good for business.

But the biggest problem with the Editorial Board’s argument is that it creates a false choice. It laments raising wages while it seemingly champions Commissioner Fritz’s proposal to create more full-time union jobs in the parks department. We reject this false choice.

We need to do both. We can do both.

The whole State of Oregon needs a $15 minimum wage. It is the minimum that a person needs in our state to afford adequate housing, food, health insurance and stay off public assistance. If you have children then even $15 is not really enough. In Portland, our city council only has the authority to raise wages for contract workers and city workers. The state preemption law preventing Portland from raising its minimum wage for everyone needs to be repealed. In the meantime Portland’s contract workers and all city workers need a raise to $15, and they need it now.

While his plan does not include $15 for seasonal and part-time city workers, Mayor Hales is doing the right thing by beginning the process of raising wages to $15 and we support him in this. But his plan leaves out all but about 10 city workers. And Commissioner Fritz is also right, city workers in the parks department need more full-time union jobs with benefits. We support Mayor Hales’ proposal while insisting that the process of creating more full-time union jobs and a $15 minimum wage for all seasonal and part-time city workers begin at once.

We need to do both. We can do both.

For too long the city has relied on part-time, casual, seasonal workers, particularly within the parks department. Without having to pay decent wages, full-time hours, or benefits the city saves money, but it leaves its employees living in poverty.

All of the other departments have benefitted from this unethical over-reliance on a contingent workforce within the parks department. Commissioner Fritz is trying to end that by creating more full-time jobs. It’s time to make it happen.

As pointed out in a recent article by The Oregonian’s Andrew Theen, the City is projected to have $14 million in one-time available spending for the next fiscal year, as well as $4.6 million in available ongoing funds. Not to mention that the general fund budget is about a half a billion dollars. 

There is plenty of money to raise wages for all contract and city workers to $15 and create a lot more full-time union jobs with benefits in the parks department. It is not a matter of whether or not we can afford it. It is not a matter of either/or. It is a matter of whether or not we value city employees enough to make their well being a bigger budget priority. 

Our tax dollars should not be used to pay poverty wages. No one who works should live in poverty. We believe that our city commissioners hold this value. Now let’s come together and finally make $15 and full-time union jobs a priority for all those who work for our city.


(This article was intended for publication in the Oregonian as the official response to the Editorial Board from 15 Now PDX. However, the Oregonian is not returning our calls and has failed to publish our response in a timely manner. So we have published our response here.)

Come to the hearing for a $15 Fair Wage Policy at City Hall, Wednesday February 18 at 2pm. Sign up to testify and speak out in favor of $15 for Portland Janitors, security guards, parking lot attendants, concessions workers and more!

Mayor’s proposal for $15 is big step forward, but leaves out majority of low-wage city workers

by Shamus Cooke and Justin Norton-Kertson

By proposing that Portland public employees and contract workers be paid $15 an hour,  Mayor Charles Hales proved he is listening to the wave of voices demanding a $15 living wage.

A huge boost to the Fight for $15 in Portland and in the whole state of Oregon, the announcement comes almost a year after 15 Now PDX began a sustained grassroots movement to pressure Portland’s commissioners to start raising wages in the city to $15 an hour. For the past 6 months 15 Now PDX has engaged in a campaign to raise the Portland’s Fair Wage Policy to $15 an hour in wages plus $2.20 an hour in benefits. The Fair Wage Policy applies to the contract workers referred to in the Mayor’s proposal.

“This is a positive and important step forward in ensuring that in Portland no one who works lives in poverty. We commend Mayor Hales for moving forward on the Fair Wage Policy, and on raising the minimum wage to $15 for city workers” says Jamie Partridge, a 15 Now PDX volunteer who has been leading the Fair Wage Policy campaign. A public hearing on the Fair Wage Policy is set for City Hall on Wednesday, February 18 at 2pm.


At the same time, thousands of city workers in Portland remain left out by the Mayor’s proposal, since there are over over 1,800 part-time and seasonal city workers who work for less than $15 an hour and will not benefit from the proposal.

The Mayor tweeted:  “Introducing a $15 Minimum Wage for all full time permanent employees”. The implication being that part-time and temporary employees will remain in poverty wages.  But how poor exactly? And how few stand to benefit?

According to the Portland Mercury, nearly 60% of city workers earn less than $11 an hour.   Virtually none of these workers will benefit from the Mayor’s proposal, since 97% of city workers who make under $15 are parks workers, and according to the Mercury, 99% of these parks workers are temporary or seasonal employees. Many of these so-called “seasonal” employees work year-round, provide vital services such as coordinating programs and approving scholarships, and are simply capped to 1200 or 1600 annual hours.

One such “seasonal” employee is Sarah Kowaleski. Kowaleski welcomed the Mayor’s proposal: “I commend the Mayor’s decisive action to lift full-time permanent, and contract workers minimum wage to $15, but none of my coworkers will benefit. Few full-time permanent employees make under $15. A more significant poverty-reduction strategy would be to also lift part time and seasonal staff wages to a $15 minimum.”

Although the Parks department has 97% of its workers making under $15 an hour, the Parks commissioner Amanda Fritz does not support raising the minimum wage for city workers to $15.  Fritz has remained adamant that her priority is creating more full-time jobs for the parks department instead.  Although a noble goal, we reject the false dichotomy of creating more full-time jobs versus paying seasonal workers $15 an hour.  The city is capable of doing both.

The problem lies in the city’s unwillingness to prioritize jobs and wages. The city has succeeded in finding funding for high cost projects such as covering Mt Tabor’s reservoirs, for example. Where the city has the will, the city finds a way. Kowaleski has offered to help Fritz ask for more money for Parks & Rec. The question is whether or not the city values paying all its employees a living wage enough to find a way to make it happen.

If the Mayor is serious about paying a living wage, he should immediately make plans to ensure that every city worker earn $15 an hour.  Kowaleski adds, “The face of the low-wage worker in Oregon is female, and in her thirties. This gives me pause.. this is me, and a number of my colleagues.”  But this issue extends beyond the boundaries of city employment.

While the city is prohibited by state law from raising the Portland minimum wage to $15 for everyone who lives and works in the city, the Mayor and city council can still be strong advocates for the growing campaign for a statewide $15 minimum wage, where there is legislation in Salem that has 16 legislative sponsors.   The almost 650,000 working Oregonians who earn below a $15 an hour living wage need the Portland City Council to be public champions of this larger statewide campaign.

Today’s proposal by the Mayor is good start we will fight for its passage, but it leaves out too many people. We have to keep fighting to ensure that everyone in Portland, that everyone in Oregon earns at least a $15 minimum wage. Because no one who works should live in poverty.

Get involved or make a donation to the Fight for $15 in Portland today!

Mayor Charlie Hales Calls for $15-an-Hour Minimum Wage in State of the City Speech

originally published in the Willamette Week.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales used his third annual “State of the City” address to stump for economic equality—proposing reforms including a $15-an-hour minimum wage, stricter oversight of the city’s minority contracting program, and tax credits for companies that hire people with criminal records. 

“We’re in a deeply stratified society,” Hales said. “The rich get richer, the poor stay poor. I believe there’s a better way: the Portland way.”

Hales pledged to make sure every full-time employee and subcontractor for the city will be paid $15 an hour in this year’s budget. Hales urged private business to copy that standard, which emerged as a political movement in Seattle last year and became the central plank of City Council candidate Nicholas Caleb.

“John Russell, a prominent local businessman, has just told me he’ll match the city’s $15-an-hour standard in his buildings,” Hales said. “I call on all business owners to do the same.”

Continuing Reading This Article…

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

End Poverty Wages