Portland’s First Victories for a $15 minimum wage

Seasonal parks workers and workers for Home Forward in the City of Portland just won the first victory for $15 in the state of Oregon.

As part of a larger package of gains won by park rangers in their first contract negotiation with the city, seasonally hired parks workers  have won a starting minimum wage of $15.83 per hour, up from $12 per hour.

On the same day the news broke of the parks workers’ contract victory, a local government housing agency called Home Forward, formerly known as The Portland Housing Authority, announced it will begin paying its employees a minimum of $15 per hour.  LiUNA Local 296, Oregon AFSCME Council 75, and AFSCME Local 3135 worked hard to take this stand for and win a $15 per hour minimum wage. These two same-day announcements mark the first big victories for $15 in City of Portland and in the State of Oregon. Multnomah County workers with AFSCME Local 88 are also currently demanding a fair contract and a $15 minimum wage.

Portland’s park workers organized under Laborers’ Local 483 in 2013. Local 483 has been a strong advocate for a $15 minimum wage in the Portland area. This past year Local 483 also organized Oregon Zoo workers to demand a $15 minimum wage as part of their first contract negotiations. Although the zoo workers did not win that particular demand, Laborers’ Local 483 did not give up. They continued to organize workers around the demand for $15. Now, thanks to the courage of the parks workers and the steadfast organizing efforts of Local 483, Portland has won it’s first victory in the Fight for $15.

With these contract victory the City of Portland has recognized that a living wage, and thus an appropriate starting wage for our city, is at least $15 per hour. While we commend them for that, the City can and needs to go even further. Due to the state preemption law the City can’t raise the minimum wage for all workers in Portland, but they can raise the wage to $15 for the rest of the workers who are employed both directly and indirectly by the City.

Currently, 15 Now PDX and Portland Jobs with Justice are pushing for the City of Portland to revise it’s Fair Wage Policy. This policy, which was originally won thanks to a campaign initiated by Jobs with Justice,  sets the minimum wage for workers such as security guards, custodians, parking attendants and others who work at companies that contract with the City. That wage is currently only $10.38 per hour, which is not enough to survive in our city. Our city council needs to take the next step in providing a living wage for the worker’s of Portland by revising the Fair Wage Policy to $15 per hour plus benefits.

How You Can Help

We know that if we want the halls of power to move, they must feel pressure from below. After a successful community hearing on the Fair Wage Policy, our next step is get an official city council hearing on the policy. We need your help in pressuring our city council to have this hearing. We need you to call city commissioners and demand they hold a hearing on revising the City’s Fair Wage Policy to $15 per hour plus benefits.

Can you do even more than making phone calls? Volunteer with 15 Now PDX today, and make a donation to help us fund this important work.