Going After Capital: $15 Minimum Wage Action

March 30th, 2015
Dear ROPnet,

The following is a call to action from 15Now Oregon and 15Now PDX, the organizations that have been doing grassroots work to raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Rural Organizing Project is active in this coalition and several human dignity groups are currently organizing around $15Now in their communities. Please take time to make calls to the Representatives and Senators of the joint Workforce – Labor & Business Committee, who will decide whether the $15/hr minimum wage gets a chance to be voted on this session of the legislature.

In this ROPnet, we also include an article by Mike Edera that tries to answer the question: $15/hr Minimum Wage? What About Small Business? We’d love to hear your feedback. But first, take action!

Join us in a show of force for $15 in Oregon! The bill to make Oregon the first state with a $15 minimum wage will have a public committee hearing at the state capitol building in Salem in Hearing Room F on Monday April 13 at 6PM. This is our opportunity to show our state legislators that the people of Oregon demand $15 Now!

WE NEED YOU! Have your voice heard! Support $15 Now! Come early and sign up to testify! Tell them Don’t Kill The Bill! Voice your support for a $15 minimum wage in Oregon and demand a floor vote for $15!

The bills will be heard in joint session of the House Business and Labor Committee and the Senate Workforce Committee. In the few weeks leading up to the hearing, please call the members of the committee and tell them not to kill the bill, demand a floor vote on SB 610 for a $15 minimum wage!

Senate President Peter Courtney bragged to the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce that he won’t let an increase in the minimum wage come to the Senate floor, so give him a call, too! 503-986-1600

House Business and Labor Committee – HB 2009:
1) Rep. Shamia Fagan, D – House Dist. 51: Clackamas, Multnomah (Beavercreek, Boring, Carver, Clackamas, Clarkes, Damascus, Estacada, Fishers Mill, Logan, Outlook, Portland, Redland, Springwater, Viola) 503-986-1451
2) Rep. Bret Barton, D – House Dist. 40: Clackamas (Gladstone, Johnson City) 503-986-1440
3) Rep. Margaret Doherty, D – House Dist. 35: Multnomah, Washington (Beaverton, King City, Tigard, Portland) 503-986-1435
4) Rep. Paul Evans, D – House Dist. 20: Marion, Polk (Independence, Monmouth, West Salem) 503-986-1420
5) Rep. Paul Holvey, D (chair) – House Dist. 8: Lane (Eugene, Veneta) 503-986-1408
6) Rep Rob Nosse, D – House Dist. 42: Multnomah (SE Portland) 503-986-1442 (sponsor of $15)
7) Rep Greg Barreto, R – House Dist. 58: Umatilla, Union, Wallowa 503-986-1458
8) Rep Sal Esquivel, R – House Dist. 6: Jackson (Medford) 503-986-1406
9) Rep Dallas Heard, R – House Dist. 2: Douglas, Jackson, Josephine (Canyonville, Days Creek, Glendale, Green, Myrtle Creek, Riddle, Roseburg, Sunny Valley, Tri City, Wolf Creek) 503-986-1402
10) Rep Bill Kenneman, R (Vice Chair) – House Dist. 39: Clackamas (Barlow, Canby, Oregon City) 503-986-1439
11) Rep Jim Weidner, R – House Dist. 24: Polk, Yamhill (Amity, Carlton, Dayton, Dundee, Lafayette, McMinnville, Yamhill) 503-986-1424

Senate Workforce Committee – SB 610:
1) Sen. Michael Dembrow, D (chair) – Senate Dist. 23: Multnomah (Maywood Park Portland) 503-986-1723 (sponsor of $15)
2) Sen. Diane Rosenbaum, D – Senate Dist 21: Multnomah, Clackamas (Milwaukie, Portland) 503-986-1700 (sponsored $15 and $12 bills)
3) Sen. Sara Gelser, D – Senate Dist. 8: Linn, Benton (Adair Village, Albany, Corvallis, Millersburg, Philomath, Tangent) 503-986-1708
4) Sen Kim Thatcher, R – Senate Dist. 13: Clackamas, Marion, Washington, Yamhill (Gaston, Hillsboro, Keizer, Newberg, Sherwood, St. Paul, Wilsonville) 503-986-1713
5) Sen Tim Knopp, R – Senate Dist 27: Deschutes (Bend, Redmond, Sisters) 503-986-1727

Check out a great article by Mike Edera below called $15/Hr Minimum Wage? What About Small Business? What do you think? Is this a tool to bring to your next human dignity group’s meeting for conversation?


15/Hr Minimum Wage? What About Small Business? by Mike Edera

The media keeps jabbering on about something called ‘The Economy’. ‘The Economy’ WAS doing ‘badly’, but NOW it’s ‘recovering’. The stock market is booming. Housing prices are up. Corporate profits are up, and companies are hiring. This is a description of ‘The Economy’ from a certain viewpoint – the top. NASA satellite pictures of the earth show a beautiful blue-green ball in space, not the various hell-holes we have managed to create down here on the ground.

Since articles about ‘The Economy’ are supposed to be filled with data and statistics, here’s some data from CNN Money: More people in the USA own cats than own individual stocks (13.8% in stocks, 30% cat owners).

Here’s some more data:
Fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses, enough to help cushion the blow of a job loss, medical emergency or some other unexpected event, according to the survey of 1,000 adults. Meanwhile, 50% of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all.

Here are some more happy statistics:
10% of Americans own 85% of all financial assets in the USA. HALF of the population – the ‘bottom half’ as we are referred to – own less than ONE percent of the wealth in our society.

And here’s a statistic I recently came across: 3. That’s the number of minimum wage jobs the guy who pumps my gas in Milwaukie holds down. 3 is also the age of his little girl.

Most of what we think about ‘The Economy’ comes from the perspective of the 10% who own 85% of all tangible assets, not the young man with 3 minimum wage jobs. Some of us want to change this. Right now, pushed by a grassroots movement, a bill has been introduced into the Oregon Legislature to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr.

The current minimum wage is $9.25/hr, so you can see that we are calling for a big hike. This is not tinkering around the edges to see what level of poverty people can be made to put up with. This is saying – if you work for a living you should not BE in poverty. This would be the new ‘bottom line’, not how business feels about things or whatever makes some politicians feel comfortable.

Which brings us to the “what about small business?” objection to raising the minimum wage above poverty levels. First, not all small businesses are the same. First Girlfriend Cylvia Hayes’ consulting firm was a small business. So are most high end law firms – who cares what they have to pay their entry level staff? Of course what most people mean by ‘small business’ are the many mom and pop operators, independent contractors, sole proprietors and partnerships that hustle to break even every day. I am in these ranks, so let me be frank.

For the last 30 years, we ‘small business people’ have allowed political scam artists from both parties to use our names as cover to enact economic policies that have directly enriched the most powerful businesses in the state, while doing zero for our own bottom line. Republicans have used the ‘small business’ battle cry to re-write the entire Oregon tax basis to vastly reward the biggest property holders in the state. Democrats have used the ‘small business/innovator’ catch phrase to allow an in-clique of connected people to help themselves to the lion’s share of public ‘economic development’ funding.

As I sit here at tax time, I cannot think of a single benefit that my business has derived from all those bi-partisan ‘small business’ protectors. What tax breaks? What pool of state-funded contracting jobs to tap into when times get hard? The only way we have been able to squeeze out savings in a tough environment has been to keep wages down. The only people less protected than us are our workers.

As real small-time operators working at the bottom of the economic pecking order, we have been far too slow-witted, too conservative, too brainwashed by the so-called ‘American Dream’ to see through this hustle and work out who our real allies are.

The drive for $15/hr destabilizes the status quo. It’s an UNJUST status quo, based on squeezing the life force out of the least defended workers in our society in the name of profit. Small business owners have to make a choice. We can join with our workers to demand a livable wage, create a real alliance with workers and move ahead to demand real economic support for small employers. We can, and should have that discussion with our allies. We definitely should be aware that raising the minimum wage will transfer millions of dollars from corporations like the big box stores and the fast food industry directly into our local economies. In rural Oregon, this will be the biggest economic investments our communities have received in decades.

Or we can maintain our political alliance with big corporations and keep stepping on low-wage workers. We might be able to beat back this $15 Now movement. The Walmart’s and Targets and MacDonald’s will be able to continue sucking up, unimpeded, the economic activity that once supported local hardware stores, clothing shops and restaurants. They will still be able to benefit by having the State support their low-wages with food stamps and other programs, paid for by small businesses and higher paid workers. The question is, who will support our local small businesses? How many customers will we have when people earn $9.25/hr?