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!
Tuesday April 8, 2014 was National Equal Pay Day, which marks the day each year that women’s pay finally catches up to the previous year’s pay of their male counterparts. Here in Portland, City Commissioner Dan Saltzman hosted rally at City Hall with government representatives from the city and state speaking on what Portland and the state of Oregon have done in their attempt to level the playing field for women, particularly emphasizing Portland’s new mandatory sick pay law, and the 2001 law tying Oregon’s minimum wage to inflation. Still two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women, and the rally was well attended by Portland residents who came out to show their support for equal pay for women by raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Saltzman, who is running for reelection against Nicholas Caleb (who’s campaign helped launch the Fight for $15 here in Portland), spoke at the rally and proclaimed his support for raising the minimum wage in Portland, and he called on the state legislature to lift the pre-emption law (Oregon Revised Statutes § 653.017) that prevents cities in Oregon from implementing a higher minimum wage than that set by state. Oregon’s minimum wage is currently $9.10 per hour, which is $12.62 per hour less than the $21.72 the minimum wage would be at today if it had kept pace with the increase in U.S. economic production since 1968.
We applaud Commissioner Saltzman on making this call to the state legislature to lift to the pre-emption law, and we support him in that call. However, we are disappointed that he did not make a commitment to a $15 minimum wage in Portland, that he did not call on the state legislature to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, and that he did not recognize the many things that he and the city council can do right now to lift the minimum wage in Portland to $15 despite the state pre-emption law.
1. The state pre-emption law contains an exception that allows the city to raise the minimum wage $15 for all city workers.
2. There is a second exception to the pre-emption law that allows the city to require all contractors and subcontractors who work for the city pay a $15 minimum wage.
3. City Council can pass a “Living Wage Tax” that taxes businesses in Portland that do not pay a $15 minimum wage. The money collected would go into a fund on which workers in Portland who do not make $15 per hour can draw to supplement their low-wages. The tax can be progressive, where higher earning companies pay a higher rate and thereby subsidize small, local businesses that will have a more difficult time paying $15 per hour. That’s right, Big Business can work for and benefit small, local businesses here in Portland instead of depressing wages and driving local companies out of business!
We call on Dan Saltzman to commit to a $15 minimum wage in Portland and to working with $15 Now Pdx to make it happen.
March 26, 2014
Stumping for Justice in Stumptown
by SHAMUS COOKE
Like the Occupy movement before it, the “fight for $15” came to Portland as a transplant. Portland activists watched events in Seattle with a skeptical eye, but Seattle’s “fantasy” of $15 was transformed into an emerging reality, now replete with the support of the Mayor and City Council who are working on a plan to implement the new minimum wage. Meanwhile, an Oakland Mayoral candidate is campaigning on $15 an hour, while a citywide referendum in Chicago announced that 87 percent of voters are in favor of a $15 minimum wage.
Portland’s awkward silence on $15 was finally broken when Portland activist-professor Nicholas Caleb recently announced his candidacy for city council, his top platform plank being the $15 minimum wage.
In the same week Portland’s newly formed $15Now chapter performed their first action, and the Portland weekly magazine the Mercury further broadcast the buzz. Kshama Sawant’s Socialist Alternative group also endorsed Caleb, and even Portland folk singer David Rovicks contributed by writing a campaign song.
Caleb is running against long-standing incumbent and corporate Democrat Dan Saltzman, who is impressive by his complete absence of impressive qualities: 95 percent of Portlanders couldn’t pick Salztman out of a police lineup, even though he’s been “representing” them for well over a decade.
But Portland’s 1% know Saltzman intimately, and consider him a trusted friend and advocate, which is why he has over $100,000 in his campaign war chest, and can boast about NIKE and other big corporations being top campaign contributors.
The fight for $15 is a vitally important issue for the labor movement, since it has the potential to re-connect labor unions back to the community. Unions have been unable to connect with the broader community since they fear disconnecting themselves from the Democrats, who are strongly against any bold pro-worker policy like $15, against taxing the rich and corporations, and against other issues that would draw strong support from working people.
Many labor leaders remain terrified to tie their fate to the broader working class. It just seems safer, they reason, to maintain labor’s longstanding “partnership” with the Democrats. But this partnership now resembles domestic violence, with unions acting as the repeated victim.
This abusive relationship is one reason that Seattle unions wisely went “all in” for the “fight for $15.” SEIU is leading a coalition called “Working Washington” that is mobilizing its members and the community for $15 in Seattle. Now working people in Seattle see that labor unions are fighting for them, increasing the likelihood that the community will come to labor’s defense in the future.
San Francisco unions seem to be getting behind $15 too: the San Francisco Labor Council recently passed a resolution in favor of the $15 minimum. The resolution includes this important piece: “[the SF Labor Council will] help organize a broad-based coalition of unions and community allies to spearhead a campaign to bring the $15 minimum wage to San Francisco.”
The sinking living standards of tens of millions of people make the $15 minimum wage a truly combustible demand. If labor and community groups joined forces to make it a reality — as is happening in Seattle — the power and confidence of working people across the country would be invigorated, leading to a working class offensive that is decades overdue.
Shamus Cooke is an elected officer of SEIU 503. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Oregonians for 15 is the petition committee and coalition that is working to put a $15 minimum wage on Oregon’s 2016 ballot. It has become more than clear that our legislators aren’t going to do the right thing. They are going to ignore the numerous cost of living and living wage studies that have been on the State Oregon. They aren’t going to do the right thing for Oregon’s working families by passing a statewide $15 minimum wage. So it is being taken to ballot. Support Oregonians for 15 today and help win a $15 minimum wage for 700,000 low-wage working Oregonians!
When it became clear that last April Oregon’s state legislature was not going to pass a minimum wage increase, Oregonians for 15—a coalition of labor unions, community groups, faith organizations, and small businesses—filed to put $15 on the ballot.
On Saturday September 26, 2015 volunteers in over 20 cities across the State of Oregon collected thousands of signatures as part of a kick off day of action for the signature gathering campaign. But you don’t have to run across someone on the street to sign the petition. You can also download it right in your home and sign it from your comfy chair!