Category Archives: FFF Portland

Students shut down PSU Board of Trustees meeting, demand $15 Now for all campus workers

by Justin Norton-Kertson

The Portland State University Board of Trustees received an ear-full from a crowd of dozens of students, campus workers, professors, and community members who packed today’s board meeting, and who are fed up with being ignored by university administration and leadership. The day’s action comes after years of being ignored, and was an escalation of a year of direct action by the Portland State University Student union (PSUSU) over the arming of campus security and a host of other issues.

PSU President Wim Weiwel with other members of the PSU Board of Trustees.
PSU President Wim Weiwel (center) with other members of the PSU Board of Trustees.

The day’s action also comes just weeks after the president of the Associated Students of PSU, Dana Gazi, issued a statement calling for a mass student movement. That statement mirrored many of the demands that have been made by PSUSU such as disarming campus police, free college tuition, cancelation of student debt, a living wage for all campus workers, and an end to business model higher education.  Gazi spoke at today’s meeting echoing much of the sentiment in their open letter.

Students spoke at the meeting about racism, Islamophobia, and a growing concern about open white supremacy on campus,  as well the arming of campus security, poverty wages paid on campus, student hunger and houselessness, the cutting of arts programs, bloated administrative salaries and perks, and a host of other issues that the board has all but ignored student voices on for years.  Continue reading Students shut down PSU Board of Trustees meeting, demand $15 Now for all campus workers

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.



New Seasons and Other Businesses Push for Higher Minimum Wage

New Seasons Market announced that it will raise the minimum starting wage at all of its stores to $12 per hour in January 2016, a $2 increase from their current base pay of $10 per hour. ¿Por Qué No? Taqueria in Portland also announced that they are raising their minimum wage to $12.50 in January 2016, and will increase that to $15 by 2021.

According to a press release sent out yesterday, New Seasons is working with a number of other businesses to call “for state elected leaders to take action in 2016 on a minimum wage policy that meets the needs of Oregon’s diverse communities.” Among those other businesses are Grand Central Bakery, HOTLIPS Pizza, Looptworks, Neil Kelly, ¿Por Qué No?, The Joinery, Better World Club, Morel Ink, Chef’s Table, FMYI, and Grain & Gristle.

New Season’s CEO Wendy Collie stated, “The wage that supports self-sufficiency in urban areas such as Portland could be $15 per hour, while the differences in cost of living in rural communities could make the same wage unsustainable.”

We applaud New Seasons and these other businesses for committing to raising wages, for actively supporting the work to change state policy on the minimum wage, and for recognizing the need for $15 in Portland.  However, while we agree that Oregon communities are diverse in terms of cost of living, we wish to emphasize that $15 is not just what is needed in Portland, but rather what is need throughout our entire state.

Continue reading New Seasons and Other Businesses Push for Higher Minimum Wage

In a Renter State of Emergency, Stagnating Wages Mean Bold Action Needed Now

Portland Area Campaign Aims to Raise Wages to $15/h for 30,000 workers by 2017; Statewide Ballot Measure Would Raise Minimum Wage to $15/h by 2020.

Portland, OR — Yesterday, the Bureau of Labor and Industry announced that there would be no minimum wage increase on January 1, 2016. This announcement came despite the fact that prices in Portland continue to climb at a rate that is unsustainable for hundreds of thousands of struggling low-wage workers in the Portland area. This comes on the heel of a declaration of a Renter State of Emergency on Tuesday by the Community Alliance of Tenants, a local renters’ rights organization.

Working people are struggling to pay for school and pay off student debt, toiling to keep up with increasing child care costs and medical expenses. In the first half of 2015 alone food prices in the Portland area increased by about 4%, and according to a new report by Axiometrics, rent in Portland increased by 15% over the past year, the highest rental inflation rate in the nation.

“The fact that there won’t be any minimum wage increase in January only highlights the need to put $15 on the ballot,” says Jamie Partridge, chief petitioner for the Oregonians for 15 ballot measure effort, which will be launching its petition effort with a statewide day of signature gathering on September 26th. “No one who works should live in poverty, and the rent isn’t going to stop going up just because wages are stagnant. Oregon needs $15.”

But the Portland Campaign for $15 isn’t waiting for the legislature or for ballot measures. The campaign is made up of a coalition of local unions, faith and community organizations that are working together to raise wages for workers to $15 now.

“Jobs with Justice and 15 Now PDX are working with unions and community groups to raise wages to $15 for at least 30,000 low-wage workers in Portland by 2017 through contract bargaining, new organizing campaigns, and voluntary commitments from faith organizations, community-based organizations, and small businesses,” says Diana Pei Wu. Wu is a chief petitioner for the $15 ballot measure, as well as Executive Director for Portland Jobs with Justice, which is leading the Portland Campaign for $15 coalition. “Working families in Portland can’t wait for legislators to broker deals, or for an election that is a year away. Workers need a raise now. They need $15 now. And that’s what we are winning, together.”

Portland Joins National Day of Action For $15 Minimum Wage With Huge Downtown March

The national movement for a $15 minimum wage has come to Portland. Building on momentum from Monday’s packed minimum wage hearing in Salem and the announcement that 15 Now Oregon will file a ballot measure for a statewide $15 minimum wage, over 400 community members and workers marched through downtown Portland as part of a historic national day of awareness, action, and strikes for $15 taking place in over 200 cities in the U.S. and countries around the world.

Demonstrators outside of Portland City Hall. Photo by Hyung Nam.

From Portland’s City Hall to Oregon’s Capitol, workers and a growing group of supporters have been calling on decision makers to give working families a fair shot by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In February, Portland’s City Council heard the message loud and clear, unanimously passing a $15 an hour minimum wage for all full-time City workers and contracted workers. Multnomah County also raised the minimum wage for all it’s employees to $15 an hour last December.

City workers, home care workers, food service workers, early childhood educatos, janitors and more joined in today’s march demanding $15. After a brief rally at O’Bryant Square, the march went straight across the street to the Pittock Building where they took over and shut down the lobby, releasing balloons and chanting in solidarity with janitors who work in the building.

Continue reading Portland Joins National Day of Action For $15 Minimum Wage With Huge Downtown March

All Out for Committee Hearing on $15 Minimum Wage in Oregon

Call out to all low-wage workers, labor unions, community organizations, Oregon residents, concerned citizens…

Income equality is out of control. The cost of living in Oregon continually outpaces the national inflation rate. Working families in Oregon increasingly have to rely on food stamps, Oregon Health Plan, and other public benefits because big businesses increase their profits by paying poverty wages to hard working people. Oregon taxpayers subsidize those poverty wages to the tune of more than $1.7 billion per year.

SB 610 will raise Oregon’s minimum wage and help bring working families out of poverty. This and other minimum wage bills have a public joint committee hearing at the state capitol building in Salem on Monday April 13th at 6pm.fbInvite

Let’s pack the capitol and demand that our legislators be real leaders, that they take a stand for working people in Oregon, that the committees vote YES on SB 610 for a $15 minimum wage in Oregon. No one who works should live in poverty!

Attend the hearing! sign up to testify! Tell legislators why a $15 minimum wage will help you and your family, or someone you know! Don’t Kill The Bill! Demand a floor vote!

Let us know you are coming by RSVPing at

There will be a couple buses going from Portland to Salem. Buses will leave Porltand at 3:30 p.m. one from SE 26th and Powell, and one fro. A location still to be determined in NE Portland. Check back soon for the updates on the NE bus departure location. Buses will return to Portland when the hearing is over.

If you would like a seat on the bus please email us and tell us:

1) how many seats you need and the names of those who will fill those seats, 2) whether you want to depart from NE or SE Portland, and 3) a good contact phone number we can reach you at.

In the few weeks leading up to the hearing, please call the Democrat members of the committee and tell them DON’T KILL THE BILL! Demand a floor vote on SB 610 for a $15 minimum wage!

House Business and Labor Committee – HB 2009:
1) Rep. Shamia Fagan 503-986-1451
2) Rep. Brent Barton 503-986-1440
3) Rep. Margaret Doherty 503-986-1435
4) Rep. Paul Evans 503-986-1420
5) Rep. Paul Holvey (chair) 503-986-1408
6) Rep Rob Nosse 503-986-1442

Senate Workforce Committee – SB 610:
1) Sen. Michael Dembrow (chair) 503-986-1723
2) Sen. Diane Rosenbaum 503-986-1700
3) Sen. Sara Gelser 503-986-1708


April 15 National Day of Action for $15 and a Union

Wednesday April 15, 12pm, O’Byrant Square downtown Portland.fbInvite

Organized by 15 Now PDX, Portland Jobs with Justice, SEIU Locals 49 & 503, Oregon AFSCME, and LIUNA Local 483


Join PSU workers, janitors, food service workers, care providers, city workers, community and other allies here in Portland as we continue the Fight for $15 and a union!

Fast-food workers, homecare workers, Walmart workers, airport workers, convenient store workers and others are coming together to fight income inequality by demanding $15 and union. Across the country, workers have engaged in walkouts and one-day strikes to make their demands. On April 15 here in Portland, Janitors will be highlighted in joining in the national day of action and Fight for $15!

Join us at 12pm at O’Bryant Square in downtown Portland. We will have a short rally at the park and then we will march to various locations where workers in downtown Portland are currently engaged in the Fight for $15. There will chanting, marching, balloons, direct actions, and more!

Join us and Fight for $15. Because no one who works should live in poverty.

Organized by 15 Now PDX, Portland Jobs with Justice, SEIU Local 49, SEIU Local 503, AFSCME, LiUNA Local 483

AFSCME Local 3580 Metro Temp Workers Win Huge Raise, Great First Contract!

Temporary workers represented by AFSCME Local 3580 won huge wage raises in their first negotiated contract this week. All those represented will get cost of living adjustments. Hazardous waste workers get a raise from $13.55 per hour to a minimum wage of $17.50 per hour.  Zoo security wages go from $12 to a $15.75 minimum. Scale House workers also jumpy to a $15.75 minimum wage, and Program Animals workers at the Zoo jump to a minimum wage of $16.01.

These are huge gains and we congratulate the affected workers and the union representatives who fought for them at the bargaining table on huge victory.

A statement from AFSCME reads:

“After over three months of bargaining we have finally released an agreement. while not perfect, we feel we made some great gains, especially to wages. Big thanks to our Members, Jobs With Justice, and 15 Now for the support. Also, Metro management deserves credit for making positive movement that will help workers and the community for a long time.”

AFSCME Victory

While this is a great victory for more workers, a victory that helps us gain momentum to build and win $15 for even more working people in Portland and across Oregon, we must recognize it as just that, a start. Portland Metro now joins Multnomah County and the City of Portland in not only recognizing, but in acting on the fact that anything less than $15 is not enough in the Portland area. We call on Metro Council to take further action to ensure that all Metro workers have at least a $15 minimum wage and a clear and unobstructed path to unionization regardless of their particular employment classification.

No one who works should live in poverty.

New budget forecast shows Portland has more than enough money to raise all city workers to $15 NOW

In the weeks running up to Portland City Council’s unanimous vote to increase the city’s Fair Wage Policy to $15 per hour, as well as for full-time, permanent city workers, Mayor Hales justified the decision to leave out some 2,000 “casual” Parks Department workers by quoting Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” The implication being that if the city could afford to raise those workers to $15 right now too, they would do it. The other implication of course being that the city can’t afford to do it.

Even at the time the statement was made it wasn’t necessarily true. The cost of raising “casual” (part-time, temporary, and seasonal) city workers to $15 has been estimated at around $3 million annually. At the same time, as early as September of last year the city was projected to have a surplus of $9.3 million in one-time spending, and $4.6 million in on-going funds. In December the one-time spending surplus was revised up to $14.4 million.

Today, a new set of revised numbers was released showing that the city is actually likely to have a surplus of “$19.6 million in one-time resources and $11.5 million in on-going money to spend.”

Even if we assume it would cost $4 million to raise all “causal” parks workers to a $15 per hour minimum wage, the city is projected to have almost three times that in on-going money to spend.

We applaud Mayor Hales and the city council for their action on the Fair Wage Policy and on full-time, permanent city workers. But what is now clear is that where we are right now is sitting on huge budget surplus that provides more than enough money to pay all city workers $15 now, still leaving some $6 million in on-going and almost $20 million in one-time spending money available for other uses like road maintenance and expanding the $15 Fair Wage Policy even further.

Our tax dollars should not be used to pay poverty wages. It is unethical and it sends the message that the city does not value it’s employees and the work that they do to keep this city running. We have the opportunity and the means, right now in this next budget cycle, to ensure that everyone who works for the city either directly or indirectly is paid $15 Now.

We call on Mayor Hales and city council to use this continually-growing surplus to raise all city workers wages to $15 Now, to create more full-time union jobs with benefits in the parks department, and to expand the Fair Wage Policy to include grantees, stadium workers, Rose Quarter workers, and others who work for companies and non-profit organizations that get funding from the city.  We can afford to do this with what we have, where we are, right now.

There are no more excuses. Portland needs $15 Now.


Portland City Council Unanimously Passes $15 Fair Wage Policy

Community groups, labor unions, workers, and other supporters of a $15 minimum wage packed City Hall so full that the balcony had to be opened for overflow. They came out to testify at a Portland City Council hearing the city’s Fair Wage Policy, expressing their support for updating that policy to a $15 minimum wage.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman called the hearing and presented a resolution, co-sponsored by Mayor Hales, which amends the Fair Wage Policy to a $15 per hour minimum, and directs the Bureau of Human Services to develop a plan to assess the level of compensation for so-called “casual” workers.


Passage of a $15 Fair Wage Policy would affect about 175 janitors, security guards, parking attendants and others who work for companies that contract with the City of Portland. Linda Sporer, who works at the Portland Building said, “As a security officer, I have a serious responsibility to keep people safe. When I get home, I have an added responsibility to do everything I can to support my family. This wage increase will make a real difference – giving me the resources to get ahead instead of barely getting by.”

Updating the Fair Wage Policy helps hard working people in Portland, and will be an important victory in the growing movement for a $15 minimum wage. “The Fair Wage Policy here in Portland is the first step in raising the minimum wage to $15, not only for all city workers, but for all who live and work in Portland,” says Tamara Kneese of 15 Now PDX.  

During his State of the City address Mayor Hales announced support for raising the Fair Wage Policy to $15, and also all permanent, full-time city workers. But the proposal leaves out 1800 so-called “casual” parks department employees who are working less than full-time hours, on poverty wages. In fact, much of the public testimony focused on this next phase of the local Fight for $15, as speaker after speaker lined up to demand that so-called “casual” city workers not be left out.


One of these so-called “casual” employees is Icarus Jacoby Smith, who works at the Mount Scott Community Center, “Part-time seasonal workers are an integral part of the Parks Department.  We are here making sure that the parks, pools, and facilities are kept safe and enjoyable year-round.  I think it’s time our wages reflect a certain level of recognition for the work we do in this community.” 

At the hearing 15 Now PDX, Portland Jobs with Justice, SEIU Local 49, which represents workers

affected by the Fair Wage Policy, and LiUNA Local 483, which represents parks workers, showed support for the Mayor’s plan, but called on the City Commissioners to set up a contingent workers task force to produce a concrete plan for creating more full-time jobs that would be covered under the currently proposed $15 minimum wage for city workers, to redefine “casual” to be more accurate and limited in use, and to raise the minimum wage to $15 for all city workers regardless of their classification or number of hours worked.

Public testimony on the issue lasted for hours as community members, union and community organization representatives, faith leaders, and low-wage workers spoke out in favor of a $15 minimum wage for contract workers, city workers, and for all working people in the City of Portland. Not one person spoke in opposition. 

During the hearing, Commissioner Fritz introduced a number of amendments to the council resolution. Among those amendments was one to limit the increase to $15 in the Fair Wage Policy to full-time contract workers only (in addition to 18 full-time, permanent city workers that are separate from the Fair Wage Policy), and another to ensure the contingent worker task force will be finished with its work in time for the next budget cycle. She also announced plans to amend her current budget request to include a $15 minimum wage for all seasonal city maintenance workers starting in their second year of employment.

15 Now PDX opposes any attempt to limit the $15 minimum wage to full-time workers only, but also applauds Commissioner Fritz for championing a $15 minimum wage for seasonal maintenance workers.

At the end of the hearing, the City Council voted unanimously to raise the city’s Fair Wage Policy to $15 per hour. Justin Norton-Kertson, organizer for 15 Now PDX said in response, “This is a huge victory for the Fight for $15 here in Portland, in the State of Oregon, and across the country. We applaud the Mayor and commissioners for pushing this through, and we call on them to continue working to ensure $15 now for all city workers.”


Make no mistake. This victory comes as the result of a hard-fought, grassroots, bottom up campaign of low-wage city workers and activists coming together, building coalitions, and building a movement with the strength to push our city council to action. Commissioner Fish said himself, “We’re here because the community has spoken,” specifically citing the work of 15 Now PDX, Jobs with Justice, and other partners who worked together to win this the Fair Wage Policy victory.

And that battle for the Fair Wage Policy has now been won. It is a great first step for the Fight for $15 here in Portland. But it is one battle, one step. We still have much more work to do. There are contractors and part-timers who have been left out of the revised Fair Wage Policy that need to be included. We need to win $15 for all city workers, for all working people in the City of Portland, and for the whole State of Oregon.

We can win these victories, but we need your help to do it! Become a volunteer today, or make a donation to the campaign fund and help us continue the Fight for $15. With your help we can win even bigger victories for Oregon’s working class!