There's an ally for minimum wage earners in the House: Speaker Tina Kotek!
Kotek announced today she's trying to get Oregon's minimum wage up to $13 by 2018, and "give cities and counties the flexibility to set a higher minimum wage to reflect the cost of living in their communities."
Here's how the proposal looks:
• $11.00 per hour, effective January 1, 2016
• $12.00 per hour, effective January 1, 2017
• $13.00 per hour, effective January 1, 2018
After 2018, the state would maintain the current indexing to protect against inflation, according to the news release. The proposal will go before the House Rules Committee on Wed., June 17.
READ MORE AFTER THE JUMP
Kotek says there's a "strong economic argument" in support of raising the minimum wage, and that increasing family incomes allows for freer spending, leading to more money flowing back into local economies.
“A lift in the minimum wage will make a real difference for thousands of working families in every community across our state,” Kotek said in the news release. “On a day-to-day basis, that increase may be the difference between buying groceries and skipping dinner, between paying the rent and risking having the power shut off.”
Coincidentally, the 15 Now PDX folks, along with SEIU Locals 49 & 503, AFSCME Council 75, Laborers' Local 483, and Portland Jobs with Justice have a rally planned for the 11 am on Wed., June 17 in front of City Hall. City Council candidate Nick Caleb, who has been a vocal advocate for a minimum wage increase to $15, says the rally is still on.
"This is a litmus test to see if our legislators are ready to step up for struggling Oregonians," Caleb says. "If this preemption is lifted, we will waste no time demanding $15 per hour immediately from a Portland City Council that has already paid lip service to Portland residents. It's finally time to get serious about living wages in this city."
Justin Norton-Kertson, an organizer with 15 Now PDX, echoes Caleb's statement that $13 is better, but it's not enough.
"We're glad the conversation has resumed, because it didn't look like the issue was going anywhere in this legislative session," he says. "But we still think 15 is the right number and we'll continue to support the initiative and see where it goes."
Dana Haynes, spokesman for Mayor Charlie Hales, says the mayor applauds Kotek's plan.
"Minimum wage is on the city’s 2015 priority agenda," Haynes said in an email. "This has been a very complicated legislative session, and the Speaker has focused like a laser to move bills forward. The Mayor applauds her efforts."