Category Archives: WINS Local Oregon

New Portland Restaurants Prove Paying $15 Doesn’t Have to mean Higher Prices

During a recent conversation about the cost of living in Oregon and raising the minimum wage, a representative from an Oregon business lobby asserted that a $15 minimum wage won’t make any difference. After all prices will simply go up across the board, wiping out any newfound buying power that low-wage workers might have thought they would have. It’s a forgone conclusion!

As an example he used Ivar’s Seafood Bar, a Seattle-area restaurant chain that started paying $15 per hour ahead of the scheduled phase in period that will last for the next 6 years. It also eliminated the social obligation to tip by increasing prices by about 20% and distributing that among the employees.

So yes, Ivar’s did raise its prices, but it raised its prices by the amount one would tip, as an alternative to socially obligated tipping. You’re paying about the same as if you would have tipped, and the workers are still getting a share of that price increase, as they would if it were a tip. The price increase was about the elimination of socially obligated tipping, not about compensating for the increase in the workers’ base pay to $15 per hour.

But aside from the clearly flawed example used by the business lobbyist, we’d like to point out the absurdity of the assumption that raising the minimum wage to $15 necessitates price increases.

Continue reading New Portland Restaurants Prove Paying $15 Doesn’t Have to mean Higher Prices

AFSCME Local 3580 Metro Temp Workers Win Huge Raise, Great First Contract!

Temporary workers represented by AFSCME Local 3580 won huge wage raises in their first negotiated contract this week. All those represented will get cost of living adjustments. Hazardous waste workers get a raise from $13.55 per hour to a minimum wage of $17.50 per hour.  Zoo security wages go from $12 to a $15.75 minimum. Scale House workers also jumpy to a $15.75 minimum wage, and Program Animals workers at the Zoo jump to a minimum wage of $16.01.

These are huge gains and we congratulate the affected workers and the union representatives who fought for them at the bargaining table on huge victory.

A statement from AFSCME reads:

“After over three months of bargaining we have finally released an agreement. while not perfect, we feel we made some great gains, especially to wages. Big thanks to our Members, Jobs With Justice, and 15 Now for the support. Also, Metro management deserves credit for making positive movement that will help workers and the community for a long time.”

AFSCME Victory

While this is a great victory for more workers, a victory that helps us gain momentum to build and win $15 for even more working people in Portland and across Oregon, we must recognize it as just that, a start. Portland Metro now joins Multnomah County and the City of Portland in not only recognizing, but in acting on the fact that anything less than $15 is not enough in the Portland area. We call on Metro Council to take further action to ensure that all Metro workers have at least a $15 minimum wage and a clear and unobstructed path to unionization regardless of their particular employment classification.

No one who works should live in poverty.

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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!

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.

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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.”

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