Competing minimum wage proposals: $13.50 or $15/hour?

New coalition to seek lawmakers' or voters' backing of lower figure

PORTLAND, Ore. - PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A divide is emerging among groups that want to raise Oregon's minimum wage that could lead to competing proposals on the 2016 ballot.

A group of labor unions and liberal activist groups said Wednesday it will push to set the wage floor at $13.50 while allowing cities to go higher.

Organizers of the Raise the Wage Coalition say their primary goal is to convince state lawmakers to adopt their plan, but they'll begin collecting signatures for a ballot measure in case lawmakers don't sign off.

Meanwhile, a separate group that's already collecting signatures for a $15 statewide minimum wage says it will continue fighting for the higher rate.

Here's the news release from the new Raise the Wage coalition:

Workers, business owners and community leaders gathered Wednesday in Portland to launch Raise the Wage, a broad coalition pushing to raise the statewide wage floor to $13.50 and restore the power of local communities to pass higher local minimum wages in Oregon.

The quickly growing coalition includes Oregon's leading progressive organizations as well as workers and small businesses. In the coming weeks, the coalition will bring the conversation about raising the wage to communities across the state.

At the campaign launch, the coalition released report by Our Oregon showing that a minimum wage of $13.50 per hour is needed to provide a base income for Oregon's rural counties. The report also shows that a wage of $13.50 is still not enough for families in the state's more urban areas.

Raise the Wage is working to restore the ability of cities and towns to set a local minimum wage that is higher than the statewide floor, action that is currently prohibited by state law.

"Oregonians who put in an honest day's work should receive an honest day's pay," said Cynthia Muñoz, a single mother who regularly works multiple jobs to make ends meet. "Instead, many of us are living at the edge. Raising the wage would give me and thousands of other Oregonians an opportunity to pay our bills and take care of our families with every paycheck."

A full-time worker with a minimum wage job in Oregon is paid $20,000 per year, leaving hundreds of thousands of Oregonians working hard but still unable to make ends meet.

The typical minimum wage worker isn't a teenager living with her parents. The average age of minimum wage workers is 35; nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women and many of them are supporting families.

"Oregon's economy is powered by small businesses, and paying employees a living wage for their hard work is one of the most effective things we can do to strengthen our economy," said Deborah Field, owner of Paperjam Press in Portland. "More money in the pockets of more employees means more paying customers for small businesses and more money being spent in our local economy."

Over 600,000 Oregonians are currently employed in low-wage work: roughly one-third of the state's total workforce.

"Raising the minimum wage and restoring local control will help build an economy that works for everyone, not just the richest among us," said Andrea Miller, Executive Director of Causa.

During the 2015 legislative session, Oregon's elected officials failed to move forward with proposals to raise the state's minimum wage. The Raise the Wage coalition pledged to ensure that the wage is raised in 2016.

"Legislators had a chance to demonstrate leadership and raise the wage during the 2015 session, but they failed to take action," said Tom Chamberlain, president of Oregon AFL-CIO. "Our coalition will be actively mobilizing Oregonians in every corner of the state to make sure legislators know that raising the wage is a top priority for the February 2016 session.

"But if legislators again fail their responsibility to take action on this critical issue, we are also preparing to file a ballot measure to ensure that we raise the wage floor and restore local control in 2016. Voters deserve nothing less."

On Saturday, supporters across the state will be heading into their communities to talk with their neighbors about why raising the minimum wage is important for hardworking Oregonians and their families. All canvass events will start at 10:00 am. 

Bend Canvass
Social Justice Center
155 NW Irving St.
Bend, OR

About Raise the Wage:

Raise the Wage is a large and growing coalition of workers, business owners, and community groups working together to raise the statewide wage floor and empower local communities to enact higher local minimum wages so hardworking Oregonians can make ends meet.

The growing list of organizations supporting Raise the Wage includes: Family Forward Oregon, SEIU, Oregon AFL-CIO, Oregon Education Association, Causa, PCUN, YWCA of Greater PDX/Impact NW, UFCW, Basic Rights Oregon, Main Street Alliance of Oregon, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, APANO, Oregon Strong Voice – Bend, Oregon Strong Voice – Medford, Oregon Strong Voice – Eugene, Oregon AFSCME, Urban League of Portland, Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA), Oregon Center for Public Policy, Working Families – Oregon, Oregon Nurses Association, Oregon Bus Project, Organizing for Action – Oregon, NW Workers' Justice Project, Children First for Oregon, Oregon Center for Christian Voices, Jobs with Justice, Oregon Latino Health Coalition, Oregon Student Association, Oregon Health Equity Alliance, Adelante Mujeres, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon.

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