PORTLAND — A coalition of labor unions and liberal activist groups said Wednesday that it will push to raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $13.50, opening a divide with an existing group that has been pushing for a $15 wage floor.

The new Raise the Wage Coalition, backed by some of Oregon’s most influential and well-financed interest groups, says it also will seek to give cities the right to set their own minimum wage if they believe $13.50 is too low.

Organizers say their primary goal is to persuade state lawmakers to adopt their plan in next year’s legislative session. But they say they’ll begin collecting signatures for a ballot measure in case law­makers don’t sign off.

“The bottom line is, something is going to happen in 2016,” Tom Chamberlain, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, said in a conference call with reporters. “We want it to be in the Legislature. If not, we’ll file our own ballot measure.”

The effort is competing with a separate group, 15 Now, which advocates a $15 statewide minimum wage, without an option for cities to set their own. Organizers of that effort issued a statement pledging to “stand strong for $15.”

State elections officials this month certified that the group advocating for $15 submitted 1,808 valid signatures, more than enough to clear the first hurdle for placing an initiative on the ballot. Ultimately, they’ll need 88,184.

“$15 is not an arbitrary number,” the statement said. “Numerous studies all show that $15 is the baseline for economic security and self-sufficiency for working people and their families here in Oregon.”

The split leaves the potential for competing initiatives to qualify for next year’s ballot.

Advocates of the $13.50 minimum wage say their research shows that that much income would be sufficient in much of rural Oregon, and the freedom to set a higher minimum wage would allow higher-cost cities such as Portland and Eugene to do so.

“People feel mixed about what the actual minimum wage should be,” said Andrea Miller, director of Causa, an immigrant-rights group that is part of the coalition seeking $13.50. “We think that reflects the reality that needs and cost of living are different in different parts of the state.”

Oregon’s $9.25 minimum wage is the second highest in the nation. Business interests oppose raising it, saying an increase would be hard on small-business owners. They also oppose lifting the so-called statewide pre-­emption, which requires a uniform wage floor across the state, citing the complexity of complying with a patchwork of varying wage standards.

– Click Here To Visit Article Source