Category Archives: Economics – Why Raise the Minimum Wage

OREGON WORKFORCE REPORT 2014 — The High Cost of Low Wages in Oregon

The University of Oregon has released its Oregon Workforce Report 2014, The High Cost of Low Wages in Oregon, The  report shows that Oregon taxpayers pay $1.7 billion dollars per year to subsidize the low wages of companies that refuse to pay their workers a living wage.

Here are some of the studies important findings:

  • Over 400,000 Oregonians are employed in low-wage work. That’s roughly 25 percent of the state’s workforce.
  • Workers outside the Portland metro area are far more likely to end up in low-wage jobs than their urban counterparts.
  • The average wage for the 44 parents interviewed in this report was $1,300 a month.
  • The prevalence of low-wage work means demand for public services is at a record high – over 1 million Oregonians now rely on food stamps and other assistance to feed and support their families.
  • Women are more likely than men to end up in low-wage jobs.
  • Thirty percent of Latino and over 40 percent of African American households are low-wage earners.
  • One in seven Oregon workers received public assistance in January 2014.
  • The cost of providing this assistance is high—taxpayers subsidize corporations’ reliance on a low-wage workforce to the tune of $1.7 billion a year.
  • Oregon has one of the highest percentages of workers receiving state assistance and one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the country.
  • From 2002 to 2012, the bottom three-quarters of Oregon’s income distribution saw their net income decrease.

Raising the minimum wage in Oregon to $15/hr will help at least half a million Oregonians. It will help 200,000 working Oregonians get off public assistance by allowing them to afford to pay their rent and feed their families. It will help lift women and people of color in Oregon out of poverty. $12/hr won’t accomplish this. $13/hr won’t accomplish this. In Oregon, workers need at least $15/hr to be able to afford rent, health care, and feed their families without being mired in debt and poverty.



We have a bill to raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $15 being introduced in the state legislature. Call you state representatives and tell them you support a $15 minimum wage for all Oregonians!

Can you help us win $15 for Oregon by making a contribution to the campaign? Click here to make a donation to help us fight for Oregon’s working class!

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.

Don’t Settle For Less: $15 Now!

Shamus Cooke

Momentum is still growing for a $15 minimum wage. On August 4th150 cities rallied for $15 and union rights, with striking fast food workers engaging in civil disobedience. Meanwhile, San Francisco voters are expected to pass a $15 referendum in November, and Seattle starts to phase in $15 on January 1st. The city of SeaTac, Washington has lived under $15 all year, proving false the predictions of the 1% that economic collapse would ensue.

The savvier establishment politicians understand the populist wave of $15, and are taking action to stem the tide. For example, the mayors of Chicago, New York and Los Angeles have endorsed various versions of a $13 minimum wage, though Chicago’s mayor endorsing a $13 minimum wage for only city workers in 2018 isn’t likely to quiet the streets.

While elite politicians understandably fear the growing muscle of $15, many on the political left have underestimated its strength, dismissing the movement as a fluff campaign led by opportunistic unions. This narrative includes some valid criticisms but misses the big picture entirely.

The hidden power behind the $15 demand is the unpredictable dynamic it creates. When non-activist working people are suddenly activated on a national scale, the seeds of a social movement begin to sprout.

In the same way that people are demanding dignity and justice in Ferguson, the $15 minimum galvanizes previously inactive segments of the population. If masses of working people become politically active, thereby reflecting a conscious awareness of a battle between opposed social classes, then the social-economic equilibrium of the country favoring the 1% begins to shake. An emerging threat to the balance of power is ultimately what’s terrifying the politicians.

The “fight for $15” is the first time in decades that working class people have been inspired by a bold demand. Two years ago $15 was a ridiculous pipe dream. But now $15 is starting to materialize, proving to millions of onlookers that it’s achievable. Hopelessness can turn into hope and powerlessness into power when $15 is fought for and won. Winning a once-impossible demand inspires confidence to make new equally impossible demands.

If the Occupy movement had been armed with the $15 demand, its reach would have widened to broader layers of the community, helping expand the movement’s life. The $15 movement is one of Occupy’s many children; no movement engaged the nation more over income inequality, but Occupy failed to raise any demands or solutions.

The most direct route to attack income inequality and poverty is a $15 minimum wage, which would directly benefit 51 million people and indirectly help 30 million more, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The era of corporate-dominated national politics and the accompanying inequality in wealth adds an extra layer of power to $15: we are midway through a period of uncontrollable neoliberalism, where a demand for $15 directly confronts the ceaseless attacks on working people’s living standards.

Of course, millions of people who make less than $15 an hour don’t need this explained to them. The demand is automatically accepted, in the same way it is automatically rejected by the elite, who stand to lose $billions in profits to rising workers’ wages.

Another vital component of the $15 demand is the role of organized labor, whose ranks include millions more working people. Unions birthed the $15 demand in 2012 with SEIU-organized fast food strikes. This then led to unions successfully winning $15 in SeaTac, Washington, and then Seattle.

Labor’s connection to $15 has shown non-union people why unions matter. After decades of political irrelevance because of their willingness to accept concessions without a fight, unions are beginning to wake up; and only unions could have launched the $15 movement so successfully, since they remain the only working class organization with enough resources to successfully engage battle with the 1%.

The normally timid voice of unions is due to their links to the Democratic Party, which consistently insists that unions water down their demands to appease the 1%, thus inspiring nobody. Union politics have bored union members and the community for years. The $15 demand is thus a break from boring union politics and a break with the Democrats in action over a serious issue, which all activists — union and non-union — should encourage.

The ultimate reason why $15 inspires working people is that it connects with their desire for a dignified life. This sentiment lies at the core of revolution. The Arab Spring consisted of average people raising the voices after decades of political invisibility, in a region of mass unemployment, growing inequality in wealth, growing poverty, and unresponsive political elites. In the U.S. the defeat of segregation was directly challenged by the simple yet profound slogan “I Am a Man,” which reflected the broad-based demand for dignity among African Americans.

The tens of millions of working poor and unemployed in the U.S. are beginning to demand dignity, with potentially profound implications. A $15 minimum wage will not solve all of our society’s social problems, but it can trigger a powerful process for social change that has been absent in the U.S. for decades.

A national $15 minimum wage can be won if average people are inspired to join labor and community groups in the streets in ongoing actions. It takes a living wage like $15 to inspire action in the streets, while the Democratic Party’s demand of $10.10 — or slightly higher — does not. Keeping momentum towards $15 is vital; therefore $10.10 is not a step in the right direction but a barrier to $15, since it blocks energy at a crucial moment.

The national demand is $15 because it is a living wage, although just barely. The movement doesn’t have to settle for less than $15, now.
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15 Now PDX Delivers 1,000 signatures to Portland City Council

As community members and supporters  of a $15 minimum wage filed into Portland City Hall this morning, security tried to inform them that they were to sit up in the balcony even though there was plenty of room on the main floor. After being reminded that making such a demand was a clear violation of constitutionally protected free speech, the security guard quickly stepped aside and let people into the main room of the council chamber.

At today’s city council meeting, 15 Now PDX organizer Justin Norton-Kertson gave public testimony on the need for a $15/hr minimum wage in the city of Portland. During his testimony, he described the rapidly rising cost of living in Portland, costs that are increasing at more than twice the national rate of inflation. A recent study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition was cited, which found that a single mother in Portland has to work 78 hours per week at the current minimum wage  in order to attain even the most basic level economic security that would allow her to provide adequate housing for her and her children.

He pointed out that a 40 hour per week job at a $15 minimum wage would be just enough to give those families that basic level of economic security that they need.

Photo Credit: Hyung Kyu Nam
Photo Credit: Hyung Kyu Nam

Norton-Kertson also encouraged the council members to publicly endorse and actively work for a $15 minimum wage in Portland by raising the minimum wage for all city workers and city contractor employees, and by implementing a Living Wage Tax. The tax, which was proposed by Nicholas Caleb during his recent campaign for city council, would fine large corporations and other businesses in Portland that do not pay their employees a $15 minimum wage. The money collected would then be used to help subsidize wage increases for low wage workers in Portland.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz replied that she has researched the idea of raising the minimum wage for the 2,000 city workers who make less than $15/hr within her Bureau of Parks and Recreation. However, she said it would cost the city $2.7 million, and suggested that the price tag was too high when that money could be used for street maintenance, or to provide a few dozen more full time jobs with benefits within the department.

Mayor Charlie Hales also replied, stating that  “We don’t like preemptions in general and we don’t like this one either.” He also clearly noted, one could even say pledged that getting the state’s minimum wage preemption law repealed is going to be on the city’s legislative agenda for this coming year’s state legislative session. 

Norton-Kertson thanked the council for taking up the issue of the preemption law at the state level, and told the council that 15 Now PDX looks forward to continuing the conversation with them about raising the minimum wage in Portland to $15. He offered the council the suggestion that if they are able to so easily cut through all the red tape and raise the tax money necessary to get all the city’s new development projects underway, that surely they could cut through similar red tape to ensure that everyone in Portland who works makes a $15/hr living wage. He closed out his testimony by asking if anyone on the council was ready to endorse $15 Now for Portland. None of the council members took up the invitation.

15 Now PDX meets with Commissioner Dan Saltzman tomorrow afternoon to further discuss a $15 minimum wage for Portland and action to repeal the state’s minimum wage preemption law.

But we can not rely on politicians to do the work for us. If we do we are likely to get a $15 that is full of corporate loopholes. We need to continue building the grassroots, working class power and strength that can fight the money and propaganda of big business and win a strong $15 for our city! Can you volunteer or make a contribution to 15 Now PDX to help us build that movement?

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

Central Oregon rental costs outpace minimum wage

Throughout Central Oregon, people earning minimum wage cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment without working more than 40 hours a week, according to a recent study of affordable housing.

Oregon raised its minimum wage to $9.10 an hour in January, a result of an annual adjustment for inflation. But to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Deschutes County, a worker would have to make $12.40 an hour, according to figures from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which calls this figure the “housing wage.”  Continue Reading…

New Study Shows Correlation Between Higher Minimum Wage & Stronger Small Business Job Growth

Raising the minimum wage could lift hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers out of poverty, but it’s also a job killer. Right?

…But the report from Paychex and IHS, which measured job additions and layoffs at 350,000 small businesses, could dispute that claim. Not only was Washington the strongest state, San Francisco — with a minimum wage of $10.74, the country’s highest –had the greatest job gains in the past year among cities measured. Continue Reading…

The Paycheck|IHS Small Business Jobs Index

New Economic Impact Study: The Case For $15/Hr Is “Compelling”

A new study has just been released on the economic impacts of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour in Seattle. While there are certainly important differences between Seattle and Portland, the study is generally reflective of metropolitan areas and the type of positive impact that raising the minimum wage will have on the local economy of any city, including Portland, that takes the step of implementing $15 Now.


Puget Sound Sage has just released their full report on equity and economic outcomes of a $15/hr minimum wage in Seattle. Please distribute far and wide! Here is a summary of the key findings:

A $15 minimum wage will have a wide and positive impact on our local economy.
– We estimate that 102,000 employees in Seattle make less than $15 an hour.
– Workers covered by a minimum wage could see an average increase of $3.05 an hour. This
represents a 26% actual increase above their average wage of $11.95.
– The additional earnings would result in a $526 million stimulus to low-wage worker households
in Seattle and the region.
– The $526 million dollar wage increase represents a marginal change of only 2% in the total
payroll of affected industries. Employers in certain industries, such as food and
accommodations, would see a higher rate of increase (6%).
– Low-income households are likely to spend more of their paychecks, increasing demand for
goods and service. Households with incomes between $30,000 and $39,999 spend all of their
pre-tax income. In contrast – households with incomes over $70,000 spend only 63% of their
pre-tax income. Continue Reading…

$15 Now Spotted at City Club of Portland

On April 8th City Club of Portland hosted a candidates forum at which city leaders could get to know the candidates in the upcoming election, and we spotted some “15 Now” signs strategically placed by the Caleb for Coucnil campaign!

Each of the candidates was given a short period of time to address the room. Nicholas Caleb, the City Council candidate who helped launch the Fight for 15 in Portland, was there to talk about raising the minimum wage as well as his other important platform positions such as the People’s Water Trust, keeping coal trains out of Portland, and the people’s right to the city. $15 Now Pdx is always grateful to the Caleb for Council campaign for continuously getting out the word about $15 Now!