Portland’s First Victories for a $15 minimum wage

Seasonal parks workers and workers for Home Forward in the City of Portland just won the first victory for $15 in the state of Oregon.

As part of a larger package of gains won by park rangers in their first contract negotiation with the city, seasonally hired parks workers  have won a starting minimum wage of $15.83 per hour, up from $12 per hour.

On the same day the news broke of the parks workers’ contract victory, a local government housing agency called Home Forward, formerly known as The Portland Housing Authority, announced it will begin paying its employees a minimum of $15 per hour.  LiUNA Local 296, Oregon AFSCME Council 75, and AFSCME Local 3135 worked hard to take this stand for and win a $15 per hour minimum wage. These two same-day announcements mark the first big victories for $15 in City of Portland and in the State of Oregon. Multnomah County workers with AFSCME Local 88 are also currently demanding a fair contract and a $15 minimum wage.

Portland’s park workers organized under Laborers’ Local 483 in 2013. Local 483 has been a strong advocate for a $15 minimum wage in the Portland area. This past year Local 483 also organized Oregon Zoo workers to demand a $15 minimum wage as part of their first contract negotiations. Although the zoo workers did not win that particular demand, Laborers’ Local 483 did not give up. They continued to organize workers around the demand for $15. Now, thanks to the courage of the parks workers and the steadfast organizing efforts of Local 483, Portland has won it’s first victory in the Fight for $15.

With these contract victory the City of Portland has recognized that a living wage, and thus an appropriate starting wage for our city, is at least $15 per hour. While we commend them for that, the City can and needs to go even further. Due to the state preemption law the City can’t raise the minimum wage for all workers in Portland, but they can raise the wage to $15 for the rest of the workers who are employed both directly and indirectly by the City.

Currently, 15 Now PDX and Portland Jobs with Justice are pushing for the City of Portland to revise it’s Fair Wage Policy. This policy, which was originally won thanks to a campaign initiated by Jobs with Justice,  sets the minimum wage for workers such as security guards, custodians, parking attendants and others who work at companies that contract with the City. That wage is currently only $10.38 per hour, which is not enough to survive in our city. Our city council needs to take the next step in providing a living wage for the worker’s of Portland by revising the Fair Wage Policy to $15 per hour plus benefits.

How You Can Help

We know that if we want the halls of power to move, they must feel pressure from below. After a successful community hearing on the Fair Wage Policy, our next step is get an official city council hearing on the policy. We need your help in pressuring our city council to have this hearing. We need you to call city commissioners and demand they hold a hearing on revising the City’s Fair Wage Policy to $15 per hour plus benefits.

Can you do even more than making phone calls? Volunteer with 15 Now PDX today, and make a donation to help us fund this important work.


Home Forward, formerly The Portland Housing Authority, implements $15 minimum wage!

Yesterday Home Forward announced that it will implement a $15 minimum wage for its employees. Formerly known as The Portland Housing Authority, Home Forward employees are represented by LiUNA Local 296 and AFSCME Local 3135 who worked together with Oregon AFSCME Council 75 to win a $15 per hour minimum wage for Home Forward employees.  Home Forward’s work is centered around finding decent and affordable housing for individuals and families who are challenged by economic hardship, disability, or other special needs.

Click here to read the statement released today by Home Forward

In the announcement Home Forward Executive Director, Michael Buonocore, discusses their work helping to provide housing for people who work hard yet still struggle with economic hardship and need assistance, the importance of raising wages in combating income inequality, and why this makes it important that Home Forward provides a $15 minimum wage for its own employees.

15 Now PDX applauds Home Forward for being a leader on the issue of fair wages, and commends them for paying their employees a a $15 minimum wage!

Click here to read the statement released today by Home Forward

City janitors, security guards, parking attendants, stadium workers seek a $15/hr fair wage

by Jamie Partridge

Riding the momentum of the national 15 Now movement for a $15 minimum wage, City of Portland contract workers and over 100 of their allies demanded improvements in the city’s Fair Wage Policy at a community hearing in southeast Portland tonight.

Click here to read the proposed improvements to the City of Portland’s Fair Wage Policy

Jackie Dingfelder from Mayor Hales office, and Brendan Finn and Matt Grumm from Commissioner Saltzman’s office received petitions with over five thousand Oregonian signatures calling for a fifteen dollar per hour minimum wage.

Representatives of Mayor Hales and Commissioner Saltzman listen to worker testimony at the Community Hearing on the City of Portland’s Fair Wage Policy.

Oregon House Representative Rob Nosse, who represents the district around the union hall where the hearing was held, and House Speaker Tina Kotek delivered solidarity statements encouraging city commissioners to raise wages for city contract workers.  Nosse is introducing a $15 minimum wage bill in the Oregon legislature in 2015.

Oregon State House Representative Rob Nosse giving solidarity statements on behalf of himself and Speaker of the State House, Tina Kotek.

Click here to make a donation and support the effort to raise Portland’s Fair Wage Policy to $15

The City of Portland adopted a Fair Wage Policy in 1998, thanks to a Living Wage campaign led by Jobs with Justice.  That wage, for janitors, security guards, parking attendants, stadium workers and others at companies which contract with the City, is currently at $10.38/ hour plus $1.92 for benefits.  Speakers at the hearing asked the questions:  Is this a living wage in Portland?  Should tax dollars be spent keeping workers in poverty?  Are enough workers covered?  Is monitoring and enforcement adequate? Advocates are demanding the policy be changed to $15/ hour in wages plus an additional $2.20/ hour for benefits.
Linda Sporer, a security guard in Portland, talks about not being able to afford to take her grandkids out to dinner on her low-wage job.
Maggie Fraech, a civic stadium worker, shares that after a decades on the job, her pay has topped out at less than $12 per hour.
City Council staff and the assembled crowd heard moving testimony on struggle to make ends meet from a wide range of low-wage workers — a security guard, a civic stadium worker, a seasonal parks employee, a grocery worker, a bus driver – as well as an economist and a priest who each spoke about the importance of addressing and ending income inequality.
Robbie Schaal, a seasonal parks worker in Portland, talks about the difficulties of paying bills with a low-wage seasonal job.
Robbie Schaal, a seasonal parks worker in Portland, talks about the difficulties of paying bills with a low-wage seasonal job.


Dingfelder, Finn and Grumm were asked by hearing organizers from 15 Now PDX to arrange a City Council hearing and a timeline for upgrading the Fair Wage Policy.  The commissioners’ representatives promised to bring the requests back to city hall.

15 Now PDX Delivers Over 5,000 Signatures to Sen. Rosenbaum & Rep. Nosse at Economic Fairness Town Hall

Last Saturday State Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum and Representative Rob Nosse held an economic fairness town hall meeting in SE Portland. They and representatives from the AARP, AFL-CIO, and Family Forward Oregon discussed working class issues such as paid sick leave, the ability to save for retirement, and raising the minimum wage.

About 40 people were in attendance, most of them wearing 15 PDX buttons and holding bright red signs that read “15 Now: Oregon Needs A Raise.” On the minimum wage issue, the rhetoric from the legislators and organizational representatives was encouraging. Elana Guiney, the Oregon AFL-CIO’s state legislative and communications director, pointed to studies showing that a living wage in Oregon is between $16-19/hr, and the fact that inflation in Oregon is grossly outpacing the national rate was also discussed.

Indeed, the panelists seemed to be in unanimous agreement that state representatives should shoot as high as possible in terms of raising Oregon’s minimum wage during the 2015 legislative session. Furthermore, Senator Rosenbaum and Representative Nosse make it clear that they are not willing to compromise away a minimum wage law by agreeing to corporate watering down tactics such as tip credits, long phase ins, and multi-tiered sub-minimum wages.

When the Q&A portion of the town hall meeting began, there were a flurry of questions about the need for $15 and whether or not that need would be taken seriously at the legislative level. It was pointed out that 15 Now chapters are forming all over the state, that the list of organizations and unions endorsing $15 for Oregon is rapidly growing, and representatives of 15 Now PDX  delivered to Rosenbaum and Nosse over 5,000 signatures from residents all over the state of Oregon who support a $15 minimum wage.

While the tone of the meeting was positive and hopeful, neither Rosenbaum nor Nosse, nor the AFL-CIO (the represented organization most directly involved in the minimum wage fight) was willing to publicly endorse and be legislative leaders in the Fight for $15 here in Oregon.

What does this mean? It means that we have to keep building the grassroots, working class movement for a $15/hr minimum wage here in Oregon. We have to keep expanding our chapters and our coalition. We have to organize fast food workers to walk out on strike here in Oregon with the demand for $15 and a union. We need massive call in and letter writing campaigns to pressure legislators all over the state to take up the mantle of $15. We need to build enough pressure that local and state representatives, as well as business owners have no choice but to support and fight for $15 for fear that otherwise the working class kettle will boil over, that the bubble will burst. In short, we need you to join the fight, and we need you to get your friends, your family, and neighborhood involved as well!

There are variety of ways that you can help Fight for $15 in Oregon. Contact us about volunteering, joining a chapter, or starting a 15 Now chapter in your town. Make a one time donation to our fundraising campaign, or make a recurring monthly donation to the Fight for $15 in Oregon! You can also call your state reps and demand they fight for a $15 minimum wage for all Oregonians!

Written by Justin Norton-Kertson, 15 Now PDX cofounder and steering committee member.