Category Archives: Contract Demands

Workers at PDX First Unitarian Church Win $15 and a Union

by Justin Norton-Kertson

As part of their first union contract, workers at the First Unitarian Church of Portland are guaranteed a wage of at least $15 per hour. This includes employees who are not part of the union, and is retroactive back to July 1, 2015.

The Portland Area Campaign for $15, which is being led by Portland Jobs with Justice, and of which 15 Now PDX is a part, is working to raise the minimum wage for at least 30,000 Portland area workers by 2017 through contract bargaining such as in the case of the First Unitarian Church, through voluntary commitments, and through new organizing campaigns for $15 and a union.

The following was originally published on the First Unitarian Church website on 11/19/15

Justice Begins at Home!

It was one year ago when some of our staff came into my office and requested recognition of a union for our employees. For almost nine months representatives of the employees and of the church administration have been in negotiation to craft an initial labor contract. Last spring, more than 300 individuals and families pledged additional financial support for increased wages to allow Justice to Begin at Home.

I am delighted to tell you that late last Tuesday, agreement was reached on our first labor contract. The members of the union approved its terms, as did the Executive Team. Last Sunday, the cost of the contract was approved by our Board of Trustees. The final document is being prepared for signatures, but agreement has been reached.

As promised when we raised the Justice Begins at Home funds, First Unitarian will now pay all of its employees at least a $15/hour minimum wage. That includes all employees, even those not in the union. The only exception is a six month probationary period for new employees. This significant raise will be retro-active to July 1. The benefits we offer, which are generous in the non-profit world, will remain undiminished.

A number of salaried employees, both in the union and outside, will also receive adjustments to their compensation. Most of these will be modest. Our goal remains to continue adjusting compensation for salaried staff as the congregation makes resources available.

We can be proud that we have taken a significant step toward the justice and equity our principles proclaim.

As we approach Celebration Sunday, we have much to be thankful for in this church community. The stars hung around the sanctuary speak of the inspiration, the support, the challenge and the love we create together in this place. We can now add our commitment to leadership in just compensation. The Beloved Community is built not only with words, but with our wallets. Our ability to fulfill the terms of this agreement depends on the continued generosity of the members of this community. Our gratitude for First Church needs to be matched with our willingness to support it.

I want to thank Nicole Bowmer, Jason Chapman and Nick Harrington who represented the union at the bargaining table. Also Rev. Tom Disrud and Pat Malone who represented the Executive Team. Special thanks to John Bishop, a congregant with extensive labor negotiation experience, who helped the process, not representing either side.

Last, but not least, thanks to all those who have waited patiently and all those who have contributed generously and all those who affirmed the need for the church to take this step. This achievement is all of ours to celebrate.



What the $15 minimum wage means to our members set to receive it

By DON LOVING Council 75 Communications Director

Oregon AFSCME was in the news recently when, within a week’s time, two major Portland public employers announced agreements with their respective AFSCME local unions to establish $15 minimum wage floors in their contracts.

The first agreement came at Home Forward, Portland’s housing authority agency, and was an add-on clause to Local 3135’s existing contract. Then, days later, Local 88 and Multnomah County announced agreement on a new three-year pact that included the $15 minimum wage as one of its components. Home Forward is jumping the 33 employees covered by the increase to $15 immediately; Multnomah County will phase in its 155 employees effected by the increase over the life of the contract.

But with the initial excitement by the announcements having moved on a bit in news cycles, what do the people actually impacted think?

At Multnomah County, about 93 percent of those who will benefit from the increased minimum wage are library pages. Pages have a wide variety of duties, ranging from shelving books and other materials movements to directly helping customers with questions or library account maintenance.

Jennifer Behr has been a Multnomah County Library page for 26 years.

“For me it’s validation and recognition of the work we do,” says Behr. “What we do isn’t ‘minor’ — it has value. It’s also important that the county compensates even its lowest-paid workers with a living wage.”

…Jasmine Criss is a resident specialist at Home Forward’s Hollywood East complex, an apartment building with 289 units and well over 300 residents. She works with the agency’s property management team and directly with residents on the myriad of issues that crop up within Hollywood East’s enclosed community.

Criss is 22, single, and goes to Portland Community College part-time while working her full-time job at Home Forward. She’s seeing an immediate wage increase of $2.45 per hour (from $12.55 to $15), and says that difference is huge to her limited budget.

“For the first time, I have breathing room — that’s the best way to put it,” says Criss. “It’s been hard, especially going to school, to pay everything and balance my budget. Now I’m going to be able to do that, and I’ll have about $50 per month left over for extras, or to simply save. I’ve never had that, so it’s a big deal.”

Click Here To Read The Full Article on the Oregon AFSCME Website

The spreading fight for 15

Jamie Partridge, a retired postal worker and steering committee member of 15 Now PDX, reports on successes for the movement for a $15 an hour and a union.

LAST WEEK, public employees in Portland and the surrounding area became the latest group of Oregon workers to win a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

The workers, members of AFSCME Local 88, won the raise in the union’s new contract with Multnomah County. It is expected to be approved by the Board of Country Commissioners in December. Under the agreement, the pay for the county’s lowest-paid workers will rise to $15 by July 2016.

Local 88’s victory came soon after the news that two other groups of public-sector workers in Portland had won a $15 wage floor: seasonal park rangers, who organized a union with Laborers Local 483 the year before, and workers at Home Forward (formerly the Housing Authority of Portland), who are members of AFSCME 3135 and Laborers 290.

The Fight for 15 is spreading on the West Coast. The first breakthrough came in November 2013 when a referendum victory made Sea-Tac, Wash., the first city in the country with a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Unfortunately, a judge then ruled that the city didn’t have the authority to apply the new law to workers at the Sea-Tac International airport, which is by far the largest low-wage employer in town.

Read the full article here

Multnomah County Employees Win $15 Minimum Wage!

Another big victory for $15 in the Portland area!


A HUGE VICTORY for working families and AFSCME Union Local 88! The local wins a tentative agreement with Multnomah County to raise the minimum wage to $15 — Multnomah County is the first local government and largest public employer to have this agreement.

“Increasing the minimum wage to $15 is a small step toward continuing the work of bringing economic security for hardworking families in Oregon,” says Deirdre Mahoney-Clark, the president of Multnomah County Employee’s Union-AFSCME Local 88.

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.