The national movement for a $15 minimum wage has come to Portland. Building on momentum from Monday’s packed minimum wage hearing in Salem and the announcement that 15 Now Oregon will file a ballot measure for a statewide $15 minimum wage, over 400 community members and workers marched through downtown Portland as part of a historic national day of awareness, action, and strikes for $15 taking place in over 200 cities in the U.S. and countries around the world.
From Portland’s City Hall to Oregon’s Capitol, workers and a growing group of supporters have been calling on decision makers to give working families a fair shot by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In February, Portland’s City Council heard the message loud and clear, unanimously passing a $15 an hour minimum wage for all full-time City workers and contracted workers. Multnomah County also raised the minimum wage for all it’s employees to $15 an hour last December.
City workers, home care workers, food service workers, early childhood educatos, janitors and more joined in today’s march demanding $15. After a brief rally at O’Bryant Square, the march went straight across the street to the Pittock Building where they took over and shut down the lobby, releasing balloons and chanting in solidarity with janitors who work in the building.
Janitors in Portland recently announced their support for a $15minimum wage as part of their nationwide “Raise America” campaign. Mark Medina, a local janitor and member of SEIU Local 49 said, “We’re standing together – in Portland and across the country – as part of our Raise America campaign for a fair minimum wage. Workers in our community can’t wait. The landlord doesn’t wait and the electric company doesn’t wait, so neither can we. That’s why janitors are coming together and joining other workers across the country to fight for $15 and a union."
The demonstrated marched through downtown streets clogging traffic and targeting other low-wage employers including the City of Portland, which left some 2,000 part-time, seasonal, and temporary city workers out of it’s recent raise to $15, Aramark, which contracts low-wage food service workers at Portland State University, and PSU itself, which pays poverty wages to childcare and other classified staff.
We asked some low wage workers why they are fighting for a $15 minimum wage. Here is what they had to say:
“The $10 dollars an hour I earn does not go far enough to cover my groceries and bills. I go to two different food banks once a month just to have enough food for the month. I provide great care that seniors need and I work full time, I should be able to pay my bills. A $15 minimum wage would allow me to get out of survivor mode and stop depending on food banks.”
-Paula Likes, Homecare Worker.
“Portland State University Aramark workers are joining the $15 minimum wage fight. Workers are struggling to make ends meet even with two or three jobs. By raising the minimum wage, hardworking families have a fair shot at getting ahead. We urged PSU and Aramark to do the right thing.” -Nicole Stroup is a cook and the president of Aramark AFSCME Union Local 1336.
“For the past eighteen years I provided holistic care and education to children in the most critical years of their development. I earned a Montessori teaching certificate from the Montessori Institute of America, as well as a Child and Family Studies BA from Portland State University. I now work at Helen Gordon Child Development Center at Portland State University. After working hard for two decades teaching and advocating as an early childhood educator, I earn $13.82 an hour. I am a professional in a vital field, unfortunately early childhood educators are some of the lowest paid, albeit hard working and talented individuals out there. A living wage for early childhood educators is not radical, it is sensible. Paying early educators a living wage does not only improve life for young children it would ensure that a historically undervalued workforce made up of mostly women would have a chance to support their own families without being forced to be dependent upon spouses or public services.” -Christine Palmer, Associate Teacher-Portland State University.