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…]

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…]

High Stakes, Low Expectations for Minimum Wage Raise at the Legislature: Oregonians for $15 reveals credible ballot threat

by Shamus Cooke

While Salem politicians prepare for a seemingly uneventful legislative session, Oregon’s low-wage workers are getting crushed by the rising costs of rent, utilities, food, and other basic necessities.  

For the over 700,000 people in Oregon employed in low-wage work, the economic insecurity is palpable. But this urgency is absent in Salem, where the once-booming enthusiasm to raise the minimum wage now appears only outside of the capitol building.

A telling example of legislators’ drooping energy is the number of legislative sponsors for a statewide $15 minimum wage. During last year’s session there were 16 co-sponsors of $15 legislation. This year there is zero.   Legislators still have time to mirror the reality felt by Oregon’s low-wage workers; but that time is shrinking, since the ‘short session’ begins in February and lasts only five weeks. [Read more…]

The Fight for $15 in Eugene Blurs Traditional Political Divides

by Justin Norton-Kertson

Oregon cities and counties can’t raise the minimum wage themselves for all workers within their boundaries, but that hasn’t stopped local activists and low-wage workers from fighting for $15 at the local level, and it hasn’t stopped local governments from responding to pressure by raising the minimum wage to $15 for their own employees.

So far all of the local campaigns and victories for $15 for municipal workers in Oregon have been in the Portland metro area. In late 2014 all Multnomah County employees won a $15 minimum wage. In February 2015 Portland City Council passed a resolution guaranteeing a $15 minimum for all full-time city workers and for contract workers like security guards and janitors who work on city property. More recently, in October the City of Milwaukie passed an ordinance ensuring that no city worker’s wages—including seasonal, part-time workers, and interns—would fall below $15 per hour.

Now for the first time, the Fight for $15 for municipal employees is branching out beyond the Portland metro area and into Eugene. Groups like 15 Now Eugene, Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network, and a coalition of others are advocating for a $15 minimum wage for all city workers and contract workers. At the request of Councilwoman Claire Syrett, the Eugene City Council is now slated to discuss the issue this month.

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.
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. Photo by Lonnie Douglas.

The struggle for $15 for municipal workers in Eugene is particularly significant because it illustrates how as this movement continues to spread from the city and urban landscape into more rural areas, it blurs traditional political and ideological party lines that have kept working people in Oregon divided for far too long. These are divisions that have deep roots here in Oregon, and certainly no less so in other states throughout the country.

Normally one would expect with a fair amount of certainty to see people on the left line up in favor of, and people on the right line up against a proposed worker rights issue (or “business regulation”) like a minimum wage increase. However, as the struggle in Eugene is showing raising the minimum wage and the Fight for $15 is an issue that has the potential to break through such superficial barriers and unite working people behind a banner of common class interest. All low-wage workers struggle to feed their families and make ends meet. All low-wage workers need a raise. This basic struggle and need exists in the lives of low-wage workers, indeed in lives of all working people regardless of whether any individual one of us considers ourselves liberal or conservative, Republican, Democrat, socialist, or independent. [Read more…]

$15 and Student Debt

by Preston Price

Burden of Student Debt

student-loansStudent loan debt in the U.S. is at a record high. The national average of student loan debt for the graduates of 2015 is more than $35,000 per student.1 In Oregon, the average loan debt per student is more than $25,500, ranking 30th among the 50 states.2 This is outrageous, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Some students, especially those who go to graduate school, have more debt than the national average. The national student debt totals over $1 trillion dollars,3 ranking as the second largest form of personal debt in the U.S. just behind home mortgage debt, and also just barely ranking behind the amount of debt the U.S. owes to China.4 Younger people are not the only ones with debt. According to CNN, $18 billion of the national loan debt is held by senior citizens.5 How are we expected to pay back such high loan debt?  [Read more…]