Ballot Initiative for a $15 Minimum Wage Attracts Labor and Community Support

photo by BV Foto
Photo by Benji Vuong – BV Foto

On Friday May 1st volunteers with 15 Now PDX swarmed the May Day International Workers Day demonstration in downtown Portland, gathering hundreds of petition signatures to put a $15 minimum wage on Oregon’s ballot in 2016.

The $15 minimum wage campaign continues to gain momentum among labor and community groups throughout Oregon, as a growing number have declared support for the recently announced ballot initiative. “Every week new unions and community groups are vowing support because they understand that a $15 minimum wage is necessary for working families, and that the fight for $15 and a union will be vital to stopping the push for Right to Work here in Oregon” says Justin Norton-Kerston, staff organizer for 15 Now PDX.

Recent labor endorsers of the ballot initiative include: NW Oregon Labor Council, PCUN (farm workers), Oregon School Employees Association, the  Portland Association of Teachers, ATU Local 757 (transit workers), OSALC (letter carriers), Laborers Local 483, PSU-AAUP (PSU Professors), CWA Local 7901,  Unite Here Local 8, ILWU Local 8, Portland Jobs With Justice, and Oregon Strong Voice: Southern Oregon.

Photo by Bette Lee
Photo by Bette Lee

The Chief Petitioners for the ballot initiative are Marcy Westerling, founder of the Rural Organizing Project, Jamie Partridge of 15 Now Oregon, and Ramon Ramirez, President of PCUN.     

The Rural Organizing Project is working with the Oregon School Employee Association to ensure that the first 2,000 signatures for the ballot initiative include representation from Oregon’s rural counties.  

The various groups collecting signatures were also out at May Day events in Salem, Eugene, and Klamath Falls. They plan to submit those first 2,000 signatures by July 1st, at which time the Oregon Attorney General will assign an official ballot title for the initiative.

Photo by Bette Lee

Michael Edera of the Rural Organizing Project explains why his organization is putting resources behind the campaign,  “There is a misconception that a $15 minimum wage is a Portland issue when working families are suffering from poverty wages throughout the entire state, especially in rural areas.”

Other community groups that have recently endorsed the campaign include The Oregon Progressive Party, PSU Student Union, Right to Dream Too, Community Alliance of Tenants,  and Alliance for Democracy.   

Matthew Marino, a volunteer for 15 Now Oregon, expects that more unions and community groups will decide to join the campaign. He sees the victory of the $15 ballot initiative linked to increased support from organized labor:  

Photo by Karney Hatch
Photo by Karney Hatch

 As this campaign heats up there is going to be a flood of out of state money aiming to crush $15, and labor unions are the only organizations that have the resources capable of competing with the wealthy and big corporations for TV and radio ad space.”  

With a matter-of-fact shrug Marino added, “the vote is going to help decide the direction of Oregon; either we keep racing to the bottom with poverty wages or we invest in people by paying a living wage.”

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