Minimum wage: Should it be $13.50 or $15? Oregon groups disagree | OregonLive.com – OregonLive.com
A powerful union-led coalition announced Wednesday that it will push for a $13.50 minimum wage in Oregon — putting the group at odds with not only the state’s major business groups but with a separate group seeking a $15 minimum wage.
The new coalition, which includes a long list of the state’s major union and other left-of-center political groups, said it will push the $13.50 minimum wage in the 2016 legislative session but will then take its fight to next year’s November ballot if that fails.
Meanwhile, organizers of a separate ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next three years said they would continue to push for their proposal.
“We still don’t see any good reason to settle for less than 15,” said Kristi Wright, who heads 15 Now Oregon.
Andrea Miller, executive director of Causa — an immigrant rights organization — and one of the leaders of the proposal for a $13.50 minimum wage, said she believes the new proposal is the “most viable way forward.”
Oregon’s minimum wage is currently $9.25 an hour and is indexed annually for inflation. It’s the second highest in the nation, next to Washington state’s $9.47 an hour.
Miller and Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain, speaking in a conference call with reporters, said that their proposal would also give localities the ability to adopt a higher minimum wage. Currently, local governments are prohibited from enacting higher minimum wages.
The coalition released a research report arguing that a $13.50 minimum wage would provide a “basis self-sufficiency income” for a single parent and child in much of the state. In the seven most urban counties, the report says, a higher wage would be necessary.
Wright, from the competing minimum wage coalition, argued that their own research shows that workers throughout the state need a wage floor of at least $15 an hour.
The $15 minimum wage has also become a rallying cry for activists around the country, with a number of cities — including Seattle and Los Angeles — enacting proposals to move toward that wage.
The last Legislature considered several proposals to raise the minimum wage but there was strong business opposition and nothing was passed.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said at the end of the session that she would push in the February session for a $13 minimum wage that would also lift the pre-emption on local wage ordinances.
Wright said she didn’t know if her group would continue to try to qualify an initiative for the 2016 ballot if the Legislature approves a minimum wage of around $13.50.
Chamberlain said his group hasn’t settled on such details as how long of a period there would be for phasing in a wage floor of $13.50. Miller said the group would introduce a proposed ballot measure by this fall to make sure it has enough time to qualify for the ballot if the Legislature does not act.