Category Archives: Community Groups

Portland NAACP, Rural Organizing Project, and Others Endorse $15

New and important endorsements for a $15 minimum wage in Oregon have been announced as the Portland NAACP, the Rural Organizing Project, and others have joined the Fight for $15 in Oregon.

Poverty and the lack of opportunity for advancement have long been among the systemic and structural obstacles faced by communities of color in the United States. Here in Oregon more than half of all working black people and over 45% of all working latinos are employed in low-wage industries that treat workers like lifeless, interchangeable, and disposable cogs in a profit churning machine. The NAACP understands that this is an issue of equity and income equality for communities of color, and today has taken a stand against systemic poverty by voting unanimously to endorse raising Oregon’s minimum wage to $15 per hour.

A recent report from the Labor Education Research Center at the University of Oregon shows that jobs in rural areas are more likely to be part-time, temporary, and low-wage than in metropolitan areas of the state. This means that raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour will have an even bigger impact on the lives of working people in rural areas and will help lift up these regions of the state that are still reeling from massive job losses during the recession. Rural Organizing Project, “a statewide organization of locally-based groups that work to create communities accountable to a standard of human dignity” recognizes that $15 per hour is the bare minimum families in Oregon, even in rural parts of Oregon, need to get by and be self-sufficient.

Other recent endorsements have come from a variety of organizations including the Oregon School Employees Association Staff Union, CURRENTS of Justice for Equality, which is a group in La Grande that is associated with the Rural Organizing Project; United Steel Workers Local 8378 and United Steel Workers L&E Committee, Teamsters Joint Council 37, and Causa, the state’s leading immigrant rights organization. The Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Workers Action, University of Oregon Student Labor Action Project, and Oregon Center for Public Policy, which does research and analysis on income, tax, and economic issues, have also endorsed a $15 minimum wage for Oregon.

$15 has now been endorsed by almost 100 of the states leading labor, social, and economic justice organizations here in Oregon because it is recognized that $15 per hour is the bare minimum that an individual, let alone a family, needs in our state in order to survive and be self-sufficient. It is the bare minimum needed in order to pay for rent, bills, transportation, healthcare, childcare, and all the other necessary costs of living and working, without having to rely on tax payer subsidized public benefits. It is time we stop allowing large, multi-billion dollar corporations to profit off of subsidies from Oregon tax payers by allowing them to pay their workers poverty wages. Everyone who works deserves the dignity and respect of a living wage. No one who works should live in poverty.

Read the full list of unions, community organizations, political parties, and businesses that have endorsed a $15 minimum wage for Oregon.

Don’t Shoot Portland endorses $15, highlighting connection between poverty, racism, police brutality

Don’t Shoot Portland has endorsed a $15 minimum wage and not just for the City of Portland. Responding to today’s news that all Multnomah County employees have won a $15 minimum wage, Don’t Shoot Portland organizer Teressa Raiford said, “That’s a great step, but we need to make sure we win $15 for the whole state, for all of Oregon.”

Since August of 2014, Don’t Shoot Portland has organized mass rallies, community meetings, and public forums around the issue of police killings and brutality, systemic racism and racial profiling, and oppression of communities of color in the wake of the murder of Michael Brown at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.

Don’t Shoot Portland has shown a tremendous ability to harness the disillusioned outrage of a new generation of civil rights activists in Portland, to draw relevant connections between Ferguson and police brutality and killings here locally in Portland, and translate it all into powerful public action and discourse. It is worth our time to explore how the problem of systemic racism and police oppression of communities of color goes hand in hand with the problem of systemic poverty and income inequality.

DSPDXbanner
Over 1,000 people march through the streets of downtown Portland to demand justice for Michael Brown — Photo by Hart Noecker

The Problem

Racism, racial profiling, and police oppression are serious problems that are faced daily by black communities throughout Oregon and the U.S. From the earliest days of American law when black people where legally deemed the property of white men, through Jim Crow and Oregon’s exclusion laws, down to the prison-industrial complex today the system was, in fact, never meant to serve and protect black communities. Today, one unarmed black person is shot and killed by police every 28 hours in America.

They are killed by the same police that are called on to violently break up peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience against police brutality and corporate domination of our society. They are the same police who are called on to serve the corporate state by violently attacking striking workers and forcing them back to work.

The militarized police forces in this country are used to protect corporate wealth and power. This is certainly true when it comes to keeping communities of color in poverty and prison, and it is true when it comes to breaking strikes and squelching first amendment expression. The racism and systemic problems that allow police to get away with murdering unarmed black men are on and the same as the racism and systemic problems that allow massive corporations and a few mostly white individuals to amass and hoard vast amounts of wealth while communities of color live in poverty.

It is no secret that poverty is one of the major causes of violence and crime. Many of these “crimes” are nothing more than crimes of survival. Crimes people commit because they are hungry and desperate, they have kids to feed, and they can’t survive on the poverty wages offered by the American economy. So they seek black market and other opportunities to provide for themselves and their families. Like Eric Garner selling single cigarettes on a street corner in New York City. Now he is dead.

When talking about how these issues intersect, Teressa Raiford said it best and simply when she said, “We all know that we aren’t going to end violence unless we end poverty.”

When it comes to poverty, communities of color are disproportionately represented as a result of the racism that has been built into the American economic and legal system. For example, white people make up 88% of Oregon’s population, and only 15% of white people in Oregon live in poverty according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy. On the other hand, while black people make up a disturbingly small 2% of Oregon’s population, a staggering 41% of black Oregonians live in poverty.  This shows that just like police oppression, violence and murder, systemic poverty is a serious issue for communities of color. Systemic racism (a tool for dividing the working class) in a country who’s laws were never meant to protect and serve the black community is at the heart of both the problems of poverty and police violence in that community.

The Solution

There is no one solution to these problems. These problems are systemic, meaning that they are part of the very structure and they are built into the very institutions that compose and hold up our society. The only way some people can be filthy rich, with billions of dollars that they could never spend in one lifetime, is by keeping the masses of people in poverty, people who work hard to create the wealth their bosses hoard. Indeed, today half of all Americans either live in poverty or are on the brink of poverty. In Oregon, 72% of families living in poverty have at least one parent that works.

Poverty is not an issue of laziness, or a matter of a lack of skills or education. Those families and parents work hard to try and provide for their families. It is simply a matter of a system built upon the fact that a few people can get disgustingly rich only if the masses are either in slavery, or are paid poverty wages.

In the same way, communities of color are kept in poverty and in prison because our unjust economic system needs low-wage workers, it needs soldiers, its needs cannon fodder. And so communities of color are hounded and oppressed by militarized police forces. They are shoveled down a school-to-prison pipeline that ensures our prison-industrial complex is continuously fed new slave labor for companies that use prisoners as a labor force. Many of these companies, such as Target and Macy’s, are among the same companies that are guilty of paying poverty wages to their non-prison labor force. It is also ensured, through background checks and laws allowing businesses to discriminate against felons, that once out of prison people remain in poverty and are unable to find good jobs and move up the economic ladder. They are relegated to poverty wage jobs.

If all these problems are systemic, then the solution to these problems is also systemic. We must Fight for $15 to help alleviate the pressure of poverty on communities of color and all other communities suffering from systemic income inequality. We must fight to end police brutality and racial profiling, to end a racist system in which police can indiscriminately kill unarmed black people and get away with it.

We need to join together, unite across movements into one mass movement to create the systemic changes necessary for real justice to be ensured. We need a new civil rights era with people engaging in mass protests, strikes, and walkouts to demand justice: economic justice, racial justice, social justice, environmental justice…justice for all!

Click here to visit the 15 Now PDX Facebook page

Justin Norton-Kertson is an organizer and steering committee member with 15 Now Portland, and is the Northwest regional representative on the 15 Now national steering committee.