It’s Not Just Portland: Oregon Needs $15 Now

Both Governor Brown and the Democratic leadership of state legislature have publicly stated that raising the minimum wage is a priority for the 2016 short session, which only lasts for 5 weeks. Unfortunately, there was not a single Oregon legislator who was willing to submit a bill for a statewide $15 minimum wage. There are two plans, however, that are being considered. One would raise the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 over three years and repeal the preemption law that prevents cities from increasing their own minimum wage. The other plan, proposed by Governor Brown this past week, leaves the preemption in place and creates two regional minimum wages.

15 Now Eugene held a rally with a coalition of other organizations in October to kick off their campaign for $15 for city workers and contract workers.
Members of 15 Now Eugene understand that working people outside of Portland also need a $15 minimum wage.

The first region in Governor Brown’s proposal would reach a minimum wage of $15.52 by 2022. This region would be composed of the Portland area as defined by the urban growth boundaries. According to the Portland Tribune, it means that the following cities and surrounding unincorporated areas would move to a minimum wage of $15.52 under the governor’s plan:

Portland, Hillsboro, Gresham, Beaverton, Tigard, Lake Oswego, Tualatin, Troutdale, West Linn, Forest Grove, Cornelius, Wood Village, Wilsonville, Sherwood, Fairview, Happy Valley, Damascus, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Gladstone, Johnson City, Maywood Park, King City, Durham and Rivergrove. [Read more…]

$15 Continues to Dominate Public Discussion of Oregon Minimum Wage Increase

Despite having become obvious that legislators will not pass a statewide $15 in Oregon, one thing was made clear at today’s rallies and hearing on raising the minimum wage—$15 still dominates the discussion, and the Fight for $15 isn’t going away even if legislators pass a lower minimum wage increase.

Dozens of $15 supporters rallied inside the capitol building rotunda in the early afternoon. Signs and banners that said “$15 Now or the ballot,” and “$15 Now repeal minimum wage preemption” were all over the capitol building. Repealing the state preemption law would allow local governments to raise their own minimum wage above the level set by the state.

After the rally, the crowd broke into groups and visited legislators’ offices with the same message, demanding $15 or the ballot. Big 3×5 foot copies of the ballot initiative petition with “88,000 signatures, $15 Now or the Ballot!” printed across it in big, bold letters were delivered to House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney.

Later, hundreds of supporters of raising Oregon’s minimum wage rallied on the steps of the capitol. Even there the support for $15 was noticeable throughout; 15 Now t-shirts and signs were visible throughout the crowd and at the end of the rally, Don’t Shoot PDX founder Teressa Raiford led the crowd in an enthusiastic “$15 Now” chant.

These rallies culminated in a joint hearing of the Senate Workforce and House Business and Labor committees on raising Oregon’s minimum wage. Unfortunately, not one legislator was willing to submit a bill for a statewide $15 minimum this session, indicative of a greater interest in cutting deals with business interests than ensuring that working families in Oregon actually make enough to be self-sufficient. Instead, the House Business and Labor Committee submitted a bill for $13.50 and preemption repeal, while Governor Kate Brown submitted a two-tiered minimum wage plan that would give $15.52 to the Portland area, and $13.50 to the rest of the state. Under the governor’s plan the new minimum wages would be fully phased in by 2022, a six year period, and then would continue to adjust for inflation after that.

Advocates of a $15 minimum wage made it clear during their rally, and during the hours of testimony at the hearing by low-wage workers and their allies, that neither plan was good enough. In particular, many who spoke at the podium insisted that a 6 year phase in was way to slow, and essentially made the increase useless. While many minimum wage supporters spoke in favor of repealing the minimum wage preemption law so that cities could go higher or phase in faster if they want, many also testified that anything less than $15 isn’t enough, and that the regional plan still leaves working families in rural Oregon in poverty, and exacerbates the urban-rural divide that exists in our state. Advocates stated over and over again that this is legislators’ last chance to pass $15, and that if they don’t then supporters will take it to the ballot.

Supporters of a $15 minimum wage have already collected tens of thousands of signatures. They expect to have at least 40 thousand by the beginning of the legislative session, and at least 50-60,000 by end of the session, putting them on track to have enough signatures collected by July to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. Oregonians for 15 currently has 11 paid signature gatherers, in addition to dozens of active volunteer signature gatherers who are helping to ensure that the initiative qualifies.


Legislators need to stop hiding behind the small business facade

fatcatimageIn expressing their hesitance or unwillingness to increase the minimum wage to $15 in Oregon, the concern most commonly cited by legislators is that it will hurt small businesses. Since there are so many small businesses it will hurt our economy. Their concern is certainly laudable. Indeed, we advocate for a $15 minimum wage for the same reason, out of concern for small businesses that need more customers to succeed and thrive, and for the workers that make those businesses and our economy run.

There is an important set of facts, however, that have been mostly overlooked when discussing the issue of small businesses and the minimum wage. It is a set of facts that needs to be considered before lest we allow big corporate lobbyists and their supporting legislators to use small business interests as a front for opposition to raising the minimum wage. [Read more…]