Oregon economists support $15 minimum wage for Oregon, nationally

Local economists gathered Tuesday at Portland State University to express support for a $15 minimum wage for Oregon and nationally.

Speakers included professors Mary King and Robin Hahnel from PSU, and Martin Hart-Landsberg from Lewis and Clark. The three are part of a larger group of more than 200 economists across the country, 10 of whom live and work in Oregon, who signed a letter in support of Bernie Sanders’ proposal to raise the minimum wage nationally to $15.

(Click Here to listen to the full press conference)

The local economists gave several reasons why a $15 minimum wage would not only be economically viable, but necessary.

Photo by Jamie Partridge

As Professor King explained:  “a substantial increase in the minimum wage begins to counter the terrible growth of economic inequality…”

At the press conference, the three economists expressed their support for the 2016 ballot initiative to raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $15 over three years.  The endorsement is significant because during the last legislative session bills to raise the minimum wage ranged in number from $10.75 per hour up to $15 per hour. But these local economists all agree:  Oregon shouldn’t settle for less than $15.

[Read more…]

Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon Endorses HB 2009, $15 Minimum Wage

When it comes to debates over raising the minimum wage, facts provided by data on growing income inequality, economic stimulus, and  real, past minimum wage increases overwhelmingly support the goal of raising the minimum wage. It is good for business and good for the economy when more people have more money to spend, especially when those people are on the lower end of the economic spectrum, people who need to spend all the money they have in order to scrape by. They spend that money, and it so it circulates back into the economy, translating into increased customers, sales, and profits for businesses. When it comes to the economic argument, it really is as simple as that.

Despite the frequency with which economic arguments against raising the minimum wage are used, we have tried to stress the moral arguments for raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Again, the argument is very simple: no one who works should live in poverty. Everyone who works should be able to afford to take care of their family without having to rely on public assistance. It is immoral that working people are unable to feed and house their families. It is unethical that taxpayers have to spend billions of dollars per year to subsidize the poverty wages of massively wealthy and profitable corporations like McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Walmart just because they insist on gaining their own wealth at the expense of their employees and their families.

It is this basic moral principle, that in the wealthiest nation in the world there is no reason for anyone to live in poverty, let alone people who work for a living, that has driven this campaign since it’s inception 15 months ago.

Lending significant weight to this moral argument for fighting poverty by raising the wage floor, on April 15th the Public Policy Board of the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon voted unanimously to endorse HB 2009, the bill to raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $15 per hour over a three year phase in.

“Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon is a statewide association of Christian denominations, congregations, ecumenical organizations and interfaith partners working together to improve the lives of Oregonians…”

SEIU Local 503 Reaffirms Commitment to $15 Ballot Measure in Oregon

seiu-503By Ann Montague

I have been an active member of SEIU 503/OPEU for three decades and there have been special times that I have been extremely proud of my union. The first time was in October 1987 when we became a real union and state workers went on strike for the first time. One of the major issues of that strike was for “Pay Equity” increases. This was for entire job classifications where women were being paid poverty wages.  After an historic nine-day rolling strike we won 10% pay equity increases for 5600 workers. [Read more…]

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.”

Nicholas Caleb Changed the Conversation in Portland

Just one day before the deadline to file as a candidate with the city of Portland, only two short months ago, Nicholas Caleb abruptly threw himself into the race for city council against that body’s longest sitting incumbent, Dan Saltzman. Saltzman may have won reelection tonight. Nicholas Caleb’s campaign may be over for now. But what he and his campaign accomplished in such an incredibly short amount of time is not only to be highly commended, but very realistically sets the stage for a successful run in 2016 that is sure to bring a much needed, fresh wave of grassroots socialist politics and organizing to the the city of Portland.

So what did Nicholas Caleb and his campaign accomplish? He lost the election. But we are neither presumptuous nor cliche in suggesting that there is a real victory in this defeat. The obvious indicator is that as of midnight on election night Caleb had won 18% of the vote. It may seem like a small amount at first thought, but for a first time candidate who’s campaign only lasted for two months, and only had a few thousand dollars in donations to work with, up against a 5 term incumbent, it is monumental.

Kshama Sawant recently shocked the nation by becoming the first openly socialist candidate in decades to win an election in the U.S., winning a seat on Seattle’s city council. That victory sent shock waves through Seattle that guaranteed a $15 minimum wage would be a reality there. The first time Sawant ran for office she only won 9% of the vote. But she ran again. Seattle saw that she was serious, that she wasn’t in it for one and out. She came back to fight again, and she won the second time around.

In only 2 months of campaigning Nicholas Caleb, in his first ever run for political office and as an openly socialist candidate, won 18% of the vote, double what Kshama Sawant accomplished in her first electoral race. That speaks volumes to the resonant chord that Caleb has struck with the city of Portland.

But other than an impressive first time electoral turn out, and other than setting up a strong and truly promising campaign for 2016, what did the Caleb for Council campaign accomplish? Quite a lot actually. Tonight’s defeat of Measure 26-156, the Portland Public Water District initiative, an attempted takeover of our public water system by a board of unelected corporate representatives, is owed in large part to the work that Caleb himself has done to write, initiate, and drive forward the People’s Water Trust, which is a truly democratic, grassroots, bioregional attempt to contain the rampant corruption within the city council run Portland Water Bureau, and preserve our vital water commons here in Portland.

In addition to his work with People’s Water Trust, the success thus far of the 15 Now PDX campaign, which is rapidly becoming a real and sustaining force within the Portland labor movement, is owed in large part to the Caleb for Council campaign. It is in no way hyperbolic to say that 15 Now PDX would not currently exist if Nicholas Caleb hadn’t held a press conference in front of Portland City Hall on March 10, surrounded by 15 Now signs to announce his candidacy for city council. The media attention and public awareness alone that his campaign has brought to 15 Now in this city in such a short amount of time has been tremendous and is an exciting success story in and of itself. For the first time in decades the Portland City Council has been talking about the need to raise the minimum wage. That would not be happening right now if it wasn’t for the Caleb for Council campaign and it’s call for 15 Now in Portland.

As an endorsing organization for the Caleb for Council campaign, 15 Now PDX would like to thank Nicholas Caleb and all those who worked on his campaign for changing the conversation here in Portland in a very real and substantial way. We would like to take this opportunity to call on and encourage Nicholas Caleb to continue the fight, to follow in the footsteps of Kshama Sawant. Run again in 2016. Continue to fight for $15 and carry the mantle of a grassroots, community oriented, socialist alternative in our city. Portland will be a place for it.

To all those who worked hard on and put hours, days, weeks, and months of your time into the Caleb for Council campaign, do not be discouraged. The conversation that your work started is still happening throughout the city. The People’s Water Trust needs people to gather signatures. 15 Now PDX needs organizers and dedicated volunteers. Today May 21 2014, the work you have started continues, and we encourage you not to give up, but to find a place in one of the movements that have started because of and benefited from the Caleb campaign. Join the fight for our water commons. Join the movement for a homeless bill of rights. Join the Fight 15 here in Portland. We need you, and the city of Portland needs you.