- photographs by denis c. theriault
- Nick Caleb lost his council race. He's still attending Living Wage Wednesdays outside Portland City Hall.
But that's not how Caleb says he sees it. His call for a $15 minimum wage reached more than 10,000 people in a little more than two months—despite his campaign raising only $5,000 and knocking on, he says, zero doors. And the morning after his loss, Caleb was back outside city hall, where he's been every Wednesday since launching his campaign, calling for a minimum wage hike.
This time, he had company. One of the city's most restive public employee unions, Labors International Union Local 483 had turned out a sea of members willing to lend their voices to Caleb's call. And that they did, loudly. Loud enough that city commissioners could clearly hear their chants of "15! Now!" while their meeting this morning plowed on and on.
Caleb's campaign isn't over. It's maybe only the beginning.
"This is still happening," he says.
Of note? Saltzman's chief of staff, Brendan Finn, was on hand to watch for a spell. Saltzman has embraced the call for a higher minimum wage, if not precisely $15 and immediately. He's lobbied the League of Oregon Cities to, in turn, lobby Salem to lift the state's pre-emption on local minimum wage ordinances.
But union involvement could be interesting. Because the state's pre-emption doesn't forbid cities from paying their own workers and contractors a living wage higher than the statewide minimum wage. LIUNA represents workers in a handful of city bureaus, including the parks bureau, and also reps temporary workers at the zoo, governed by Metro.
It's not hard to see LIUNA adding calls for a $15 wage to their wish lists in labor negotiations.