$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.


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…]

Hundreds of U.S. Economists Back Federal $15 Minimum Wage



We, the undersigned professional economists, favor an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour as of 2020. The federal minimum wage is presently $7.25, and was most recently increased in 2009. We also support intermediate increases over the current federal minimum between now and 2020, such as a first-step raise to $10.50 an hour as of 2016.

The real, inflation-adjusted, value of the federal minimum wage has fallen dramatically over time. The real value of the federal minimum wage peaked in 1968 at 10.85 an hour, 50 percent above the current level. Moreover, since 1968, average U.S. labor productivity has risen by roughly 140 percent. This means that, if the federal minimum wage had risen in step with both inflation and average labor productivity since 1968, the federal minimum wage today would be $26.00 an hour.

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15 Now Oregon Stands Strong for $15

15 Now supporters hold a banner reading "Oregon Needs a Raise" on the Capitol steps in Salem.
15 Now supporters hold a banner reading “Oregon Needs a Raise” on the Capitol steps in Salem.

Today Raise the Wage Oregon announced a campaign for a statewide minimum wage of $13.50 and the repeal of the preemption law so that cities and counties can raise their own minimum wages. 15 Now Oregon responded that anything less than $15 is not enough for hardworking Oregonians to pay their bills and provide for their families. We will continue to stand strong for $15.  [Read more…]

$15 Minimum Wage Initiative Qualifies for Ballot Title

Originally published by Oregonians for 15

(Salem, OR) — Yesterday it was announced that the $15 minimum wage ballot initiative that was filed by Oregonians for 15 has enough valid signatures to qualify for a ballot title. The coalition of labor and community groups submitted 2,000 signatures on June 30. Of those, 1,000 needed to be valid to qualify for a ballot title. According to the Office of the Secretary of State Elections Division, 1,808 of the signatures are valid. That is an impressively high validity rate of 90.4%.

The initiative now goes to the state Attorney General’s office, which has until July 23rd to present a draft of the ballot title. Once a ballot title has been drafted both Oregonians for 15 and any opposition organizations will have the opportunity to challenge the title, and can take that challenge all the way to the state supreme court. Supporters cannot continue collecting signatures for the initiative until that ballot title process is complete. [Continue reading]