In the past year Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have passed $15 minimum wage laws. Some smaller cities have raised their minimum wage even higher. Unfortunately, cities in Oregon and number of other states such as Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and New York don’t have the right to raise their own minimum wage above the level set by their state governments.
A minimum wage preemption law is basically a law that says only the state can set minimum wage rates. In states like Oregon that have these preemption laws cities, counties and other local governments aren’t allowed to set their own minimum wages. So right now, despite the fact that raising the minimum wage to $15 is massively popular in Portland, this preemption law prevents us from raising the minimum wage here in our city.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is responsible for some of the nation’s worst legislative attacks on labor and the environment, has been systematically pushing for statewide minimum wage preemption laws for over a decade. In fact, ALEC even has it’s own Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act that state’s can use to save anti-worker legislators the time of having to write their own bills.
The movement for a $15 minimum wage in Oregon continues to grow well beyond the boundaries of the Portland metro area. With chapters in Eugene, Ashland, La Grande and other Oregon cities, with help from organizations like the Rural Organizing Project, and with a newly filed ballot measure for a statewide $15 minimum wage, the Fight for $15 has truly become a statewide movement here in Oregon.
Now there is a new website that you can visit to stay up to date on the struggle for a living wage all over Oregon. Visit www.15noworegon.org to see what’s going on around the state and how you can get involved in the Fight for $15 in your community!
Giant corporations and the wealthy are naturally united in their hatred of the $15 minimum wage. Surprising, however, is the strong opposition sometimes encountered by workers who make barely above $15 an hour.
The anti-$15 logic of these workers varies. Some simply repeat the misinformation they hear on the media, that a higher minimum wage would cause mass inflation and unemployment, regardless of the fact that — according to the U.S. Department of Labor — there is no evidence to support these claims.
Some workers against $15 say such an increase isn’t fair, since they haven’t had a raise in years and have worked hard to get what little they have. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly untrue that people “get ahead” when they work hard. The economy has fundamentally shifted in the last 30 years to the point where the average fast food worker is now 29 years old.
Opportunities to earn a living wage have shrunk exponentially. According to a recent study 43 percent of the U.S. workforce earns under $15 an hour. There are simply not enough high wage jobs to leap into; the leaping is now going in the opposite direction.
Building on momentum from the packed minimum wage hearing in Salem on April 13th, and from huge rallies for $15 in Portland and at worksites across the state on April 15th as part of a national day of action, Oregonians for 15 filed today with the State Elections Division for a ballot measure that would raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2019.
“Working people are becoming increasingly impatient with legislators’ inability to act” said 15 Now Oregon member and chief petitioner Jamie Partridge. “If the legislature won’t do the right thing, then we’ll take $15 to a vote of the people.” Other chief petitioners for the initiative are Marcy Westerling, founder of the Rural Organizing Project, and Ramon Ramirez, president of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United).
David Carlson, a low-wage pizza chef who lives in Aloha, Washington County, was happy to hear the news about the measure for a $15 minimum wage, “I think it’s great. I have bills to pay. If the legislature is going to drag its feet, then the people should get the chance to vote on it.”
Windy Wiebke, a single mother who works as a night custodian at South Eugene High School, added, “I’ve worked here for six and a half years and I still make less than $15. I’m not some kid just starting out. My rent won’t wait. $12 or $13 isn’t enough for me and my family to survive. I need $15 now.”
One of the most frequent questions raised by opponents at Monday’s minimum wage hearings was what effect an increase to $15 might have on small businesses. When asked about the ballot measure and how a $15 minimum wage would effect her business, Marci Pelletier, owner of Schwop retail boutique in Portland, said, “It’s heartening to hear about Friday’s $15 ballot measure filing. I think I speak for many small business leaders who are getting impatient as the legislature fails to act on a measure that would put cash in the hands of my future customers while giving hundreds of thousands of working Oregonians a chance to get out of poverty.”
15 Now Oregon Statewide Organizing Director Kristi Wright expressed optimism about the ballot measure, “This is a big undertaking, but we know we have strong support from our community. Oregonians are pioneers, and together we’ll make our state the first to end poverty wages.”
We are going to fight for working people like David and Windy, and for our small business owners too! Our next step is to collect 1,000 valid signatures to get the Secretary of State to draft the ballot title. Once that is done we can begin collecting the over 88,000 valid signatures we’ll need to qualify for the 2016 ballot.
Kristi is right, this is a big undertaking, and it’s going to take a lot of resources. Big business is going to spend millions to try and stop us. But with your help, if we all unite together, there is no stopping us!
The national movement for a $15 minimum wage has come to Portland. Building on momentum from Monday’s packed minimum wage hearing in Salem and the announcement that 15 Now Oregon will file a ballot measure for a statewide $15 minimum wage, over 400 community members and workers marched through downtown Portland as part of a historic national day of awareness, action, and strikes for $15 taking place in over 200 cities in the U.S. and countries around the world.
From Portland’s City Hall to Oregon’s Capitol, workers and a growing group of supporters have been calling on decision makers to give working families a fair shot by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In February, Portland’s City Council heard the message loud and clear, unanimously passing a $15 an hour minimum wage for all full-time City workers and contracted workers. Multnomah County also raised the minimum wage for all it’s employees to $15 an hour last December.
City workers, home care workers, food service workers, early childhood educatos, janitors and more joined in today’s march demanding $15. After a brief rally at O’Bryant Square, the march went straight across the street to the Pittock Building where they took over and shut down the lobby, releasing balloons and chanting in solidarity with janitors who work in the building.
On Monday evening at the Oregon State Capitol Building in Salem, community groups, labor unions, low-wage workers, and activists from throughout the state flooded the committee hearing room and spilled into overflow rooms to express strong support for a bill that would raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over three years.
Seattle and San Francisco both approved a minimum wage of $15 last year, and Oregon would be the first state to follow suit. At a press conference before the hearing, 15 Now Oregon representatives announced plans to file for a ballot measure this week, and to begin collecting signatures to qualify for the 2016 election.
Supporters of a $15 minimum wage urged legislators to initiate a floor vote on SB 610, and expressed concern that big business lobbyists were working behind the scenes to kill the bill. Dozens wore red T-shirts while hundreds more wore green buttons, all emblazoned with the 15 Now Oregon logo.
In his March 26 article “$15 minimum wage bill dead in Oregon Senate,” Greg Stiles reports on what 15 Now Oregon has known all session. Since we first contacted Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, in December 2014, he has said he won’t allow SB 610 to come to the floor for a vote. As over half a million hardworking Oregonians struggle to get by on poverty wages, the fight for $15 will continue despite Courtney’s obstructionism.
Courtney says that raising the minimum wage to $15 over three years will harm our small-business economy. This fear is common throughout modern history, but it is not grounded in the facts. The Oregon Center for Public Policy reports that there is precedent for a wage increase of this size in Oregon, and that our state economy did well. That’s because when working families have more money to spend, they spend more money at local businesses.
15 Now Oregon had this bill drafted and submitted knowing that the chances of it passing through the Legislature were slim to none. We sought to inspire a serious conversation about a minimum wage high enough to get hardworking Oregonians out of poverty and off public assistance, and in that we succeeded. Our campaign for a $15 minimum wage has captured the public imagination, and started discussions at dinner tables from La Grande to Coos Bay.
We see this enthusiasm because working families have fallen behind as wages have failed to keep up with the cost of living. It is not because our economy is “slowly recovering,” as Medford/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce CEO Brad Hicks claims: in fact, the Oregon Center for Public Policy says that our state economy is growing at three times the national rate. Business is better than ever, and it’s time for Oregonians to collect the living wage they have earned.
In Oregon Democrats dominate all branches of politics. Yet the labor unions are still terrified. There is justifiable dread that anti-union “Right to Work” laws will be purchased into existence by out-of-state billionaires championing the laws around the country.
This threat recently reared its head in Oregon, when anti-union groups announced that they are planning on launching a voter initiative in 2016 to apply “Right to Work” laws to Oregon’s public sector unions in an effort to decapitate the labor movement.
Fortunately, an antidote to Right to Work is also being publicly debated in Oregon, where there is pending legislation to push the state’s minimum wage to $15. Labor unions, churches and community groups across the state have embraced $15, after having watched the successful $15 campaigns in neighboring Seattle and San Francisco. Where $15 has been won, the labor movement has been exponentially strengthened as a result.
But Oregon’s $15 legislation is in danger. It’s in the hands of Democrats who seem intent on killing the bill. After making campaign promisesto raise the minimum wage, the victorious Democrats have backtracked with lightning speed.
Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney recently announced that he “wasn’t going to do the minimum wage” this legislative session, as if the prerogative of one politician should trump the desires of hundreds of thousands of Oregonians.
Oregon labor unions are not backing down. They are mobilizing under the “Fair Shot” coalition with community groups like 15 Now Oregon to pack the state capitol on April 13th where the $15 minimum wage bill is being discussed in the legislative hearings.
Groups like 15 Now Oregon are demanding that Democrats “Don’t Kill the Bill.” But if the $15 bill does die ingloriously in a legislative committee, 15 Now Oregon plans to resurrect it via a statewide voter initiative.
In order to survive the coming fight around Right to Work, Oregon unions need a huge, bread-and-butter fight-back that puts them clearly on the side of working Oregonians. The $15 campaign is that fight-back. A raise to $15 would directly benefit nearly half our state’s workers.
Much of the Oregon public still thinks of unions as alien organizations. When you add the anti-union media to the mix, a hospitable environment is created for the cancer of Right to Work, which in actuality serves to lower wages for all workers.
Fighting this corporate cancer can only be done via organizing and action, and mobilizing the broader public in support of inspiring pro-worker demands, such as a $15 minimum wage, that benefit all workers. If unions are perceived as solely pursuing their own narrow self-interests at the expense of everyone else, they will not have the support to repel the Right to Work campaign.
Every victory for the labor movement fortifies it against Right to Work attacks, since unions grow stronger in relation to their corporate enemies. The labor movement in Seattle and San Francisco now struts with the confidence associated with flexing its muscles, having won a slew of major progressive victories that began with the $15 minimum wage.
When San Francisco unions announced to the public that they were leading the campaign for a $15 minimum wage– and having later succeeded– non-union people immediately became “pro-union,” and thus against “Right to Work.”
Organizing big victories that excite and mobilize the broader community teach the public the relevancy of unions. Small victories are good too, but big wins reverberate and sink into the public consciousness. Attaching the union name to winning a $15 minimum wage would instantly change the perception of Oregon unions, as it did in Seattle and San Francisco.
Right to Work is not inevitable in Oregon. There is still time to go on the offensive. It is likewise not inevitable that the $15 legislation will die in committee. Nothing is inevitable in politics. A large campaign by the unions can pressure Democrats into passing $15, and if that fails, an exciting union-led campaign can win $15 by championing a statewide voter initiative.
Call out to all low-wage workers, labor unions, community organizations, Oregon residents, concerned citizens…
Income equality is out of control. The cost of living in Oregon continually outpaces the national inflation rate. Working families in Oregon increasingly have to rely on food stamps, Oregon Health Plan, and other public benefits because big businesses increase their profits by paying poverty wages to hard working people. Oregon taxpayers subsidize those poverty wages to the tune of more than $1.7 billion per year.
SB 610 will raise Oregon’s minimum wage and help bring working families out of poverty. This and other minimum wage bills have a public joint committee hearing at the state capitol building in Salem on Monday April 13th at 6pm.
Let’s pack the capitol and demand that our legislators be real leaders, that they take a stand for working people in Oregon, that the committees vote YES on SB 610 for a $15 minimum wage in Oregon. No one who works should live in poverty!
Attend the hearing! sign up to testify! Tell legislators why a $15 minimum wage will help you and your family, or someone you know! Don’t Kill The Bill! Demand a floor vote!
There will be a couple buses going from Portland to Salem. Buses will leave Porltand at 3:30 p.m. one from SE 26th and Powell, and one fro. A location still to be determined in NE Portland. Check back soon for the updates on the NE bus departure location. Buses will return to Portland when the hearing is over.
If you would like a seat on the bus please email us and tell us:
1) how many seats you need and the names of those who will fill those seats, 2) whether you want to depart from NE or SE Portland, and 3) a good contact phone number we can reach you at.
In the few weeks leading up to the hearing, please call the Democrat members of the committee and tell them DON’T KILL THE BILL! Demand a floor vote on SB 610 for a $15 minimum wage!
House Business and Labor Committee – HB 2009:
1) Rep. Shamia Fagan 503-986-1451
2) Rep. Brent 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
Senate Workforce Committee – SB 610:
1) Sen. Michael Dembrow (chair) 503-986-1723
2) Sen. Diane Rosenbaum 503-986-1700
3) Sen. Sara Gelser 503-986-1708