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$15 Ballot Initiative Ends Signature Gathering: Statement by 15 Now

It’s no secret that the minimum wage bill passed by the Oregon state legislature is too low and too slow. It leaves working people outside of the Portland area behind, and it phases in so slowly that it does not and will not create a living wage anywhere in Oregon. It won’t make working families self-sufficient, and it fails to bring low-wage workers out of poverty. Nevertheless, due to a significant decline in organizational and voter support since the passage of this bill, the Oregonians for 15 coalition has regretfully suspended signature gathering and will withdraw its $15 statewide ballot initiative.
While it’s true that this bill is insufficient and doesn’t provide self-sufficiency for low-wage workers, it’s also important to recognize the real and historic significance of this bill’s passage both for Oregon and for the broader minimum wage movement throughout the United States. Not only will we have the highest statewide minimum wage in the country with 650,000 people across the state getting a raise, but this is notably also one of the largest victories yet in the national Fight for $15.
Portland and 24 other surrounding cities are will now have a $15 minimum wage with a phase in that, while too long, is along a similar timeframe as in cities like Seattle and Los Angeles. This means that hundreds of thousands of working people in 25 cities are getting a raise to $15. In terms of the sheer number of cities affected, there is no doubt this is the largest step toward $15 so far anywhere in the nation. So even if this law will not bring workers out of poverty, it is nevertheless an achievement that we should be proud of. We hope this accomplishment serves to inspire others across the nation to continue the Fight for $15 with increasing boldness.

Continue reading $15 Ballot Initiative Ends Signature Gathering: Statement by 15 Now

Senate Bill 1532 – Is It Enough?

On February 12, 2016 the Oregon Senate passed an increase in the minimum wage in a 16 – 12 vote. It must now go to the State House before becoming law.

Such a vote would never have happened if it wasn’t for the campaign efforts of grassroots organizations such as 15 Now and the state’s labor union’s. For too many years state legislatures have been content to stand aside as the minimum wage dramatically fell below what is necessary for a decent living. What was different this time was that workers’ organizations, fueled by the momentum of the $15 Now movement nationally, were not going to take no for an answer when it comes to raising the minimum wage.

Does this bill provide what is needed for Oregon’s workers and their families? Does it at least come close enough or will we have to go through the expense of a ballot campaign in the Fall?

The plan slated to go to the House, known as Senate Bill 1532, would take six years to raise wages to $14.75 in the Portland Metro area (a 59 percent increase), $13.50 in counties with  mid-sized cities such as Eugene, Bend, and Medford (a 46 percent increase), and $12.50 in sparsely populated areas (a 35 percent increase). The new minimum wages would be fully phased in by 2022.

Will this be enough to lift Oregon’s low-wage workers and their families out of poverty?

According to study after study the answer is no, these increases wouldn’t lift Oregon’s workers out of poverty even in 2015. By 2022 Oregon’s minimum wage will be all the more behind what it takes for workers pay the bills.

Would greater minimum wage increases than those contained in what the Senate passed have adverse effects on the economy? Not if you go by Oregon’s own history. In the late 80s – early 90s Oregon’s minimum wage increased 42 percent over only two years. In the 1970s the minimum wage was increased 80 percent over only four years. In each case these raises helped Oregon’s economy grow, and the unemployment rate went down in the years following the increases.

In addition to being too low and too slow, Senate Bill 1532 doesn’t even lift preemption, the law that prevents local governments from establishing an adequate minimum wage for the areas they govern. Without this, the ability of local communities to raise their wages according to workers’ local needs remains tied by a law made in the interests of wealthy corporations.

The Oregon Senate’s raises aren’t so much the result of determining what workers and the economy need. Rather they are based on a cold political calculation. On one hand the legislature does not want to confront their Big Business funders by demanding they pay a fair wage. On the other hand, they want to prevent a minimum wage ballot initiative from going to Oregon’s voters, which will cost their Big Business friends more. Senate Bill 1532 is the crumb the legislature are throwing Oregon’s workers to shake off the growth of a grassroots social movement for a statewide $15 minimum wage and real economic justice.

Both the AFL-CIO and SEIU 503 have passed resolutions supporting the $15 minimum wage ballot initiative, and to win at the ballot will demand serious resources from the unions to counter the flood of corporate money that will be spent in an effort to defeat it. More importantly, it will demand the unity of the unions and grassroots supporters to build a popular momentum that corporate dollars cannot stop.

In a state election year that will see a ballot that directly attacks the existence of public sector unions by outlawing closed shops, it is all the more important that unions act on behalf of all workers to win a $15 minimum wage. In taking this on the public at large will see that any attack on the unions is also an attack on their ability to win victories that benefit everyone except for those deep pocketed interests the legislatures are too beholden to.

In short, union leadership needs to commit to $15 with a serious and united campaign rather than accept Senate Bill 1532, not only for their members and all Oregon workers, but also for unions’ ability to defeat corporate attacks against them as well.

#OregonSOS – Rally in Salem Thursday Feb 18!

Fight high rents and low wages! Fight for Oregon’s houseless communities!

#OregonSOS Oregonians are sinking, and it’s time to do something about it!

Join us as we build a tent city on the steps of the capitol building to highlight and call for a housing state of emergency in Oregon. Demand solutions to this state of emergency such as rent control and an end to no-cause evictions, a statewide $15 and local control of minimum wage laws, and an end to ODOT sweeps of houseless camps.

The bus and carpool are full. For those who have RSVP’d for the bus/carpool, please be at the parking lot of the Oregon AFL-CIO by 7:30am. The bus will leave to return to Portland at 3pm. The Oregon AFL-CIO is located near the corner of SE 32nd and Powell (3645 SE 32nd Ave, Portland, OR 97202).

Sponsored and endorsed by Portland Tenants United, Right to Survive, Right 2 Dream Too, 15 Now PDX, Don’t Shoot PDX, Portland Rising Tide, Jobs with Justice, PSUSU, Hazelnut Grove, International Socialist Organization, Portland Solidarity Network, Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, and more.

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!

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…

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.

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.


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.


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.


In a Renter State of Emergency, Stagnating Wages Mean Bold Action Needed Now

Portland Area Campaign Aims to Raise Wages to $15/h for 30,000 workers by 2017; Statewide Ballot Measure Would Raise Minimum Wage to $15/h by 2020.

Portland, OR — Yesterday, the Bureau of Labor and Industry announced that there would be no minimum wage increase on January 1, 2016. This announcement came despite the fact that prices in Portland continue to climb at a rate that is unsustainable for hundreds of thousands of struggling low-wage workers in the Portland area. This comes on the heel of a declaration of a Renter State of Emergency on Tuesday by the Community Alliance of Tenants, a local renters’ rights organization.

Working people are struggling to pay for school and pay off student debt, toiling to keep up with increasing child care costs and medical expenses. In the first half of 2015 alone food prices in the Portland area increased by about 4%, and according to a new report by Axiometrics, rent in Portland increased by 15% over the past year, the highest rental inflation rate in the nation.

“The fact that there won’t be any minimum wage increase in January only highlights the need to put $15 on the ballot,” says Jamie Partridge, chief petitioner for the Oregonians for 15 ballot measure effort, which will be launching its petition effort with a statewide day of signature gathering on September 26th. “No one who works should live in poverty, and the rent isn’t going to stop going up just because wages are stagnant. Oregon needs $15.”

But the Portland Campaign for $15 isn’t waiting for the legislature or for ballot measures. The campaign is made up of a coalition of local unions, faith and community organizations that are working together to raise wages for workers to $15 now.

“Jobs with Justice and 15 Now PDX are working with unions and community groups to raise wages to $15 for at least 30,000 low-wage workers in Portland by 2017 through contract bargaining, new organizing campaigns, and voluntary commitments from faith organizations, community-based organizations, and small businesses,” says Diana Pei Wu. Wu is a chief petitioner for the $15 ballot measure, as well as Executive Director for Portland Jobs with Justice, which is leading the Portland Campaign for $15 coalition. “Working families in Portland can’t wait for legislators to broker deals, or for an election that is a year away. Workers need a raise now. They need $15 now. And that’s what we are winning, together.”