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.”