Signature gathering begins in earnest on Saturday

Activists in the statewide fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 on Saturday will kickoff their big push to gather signatures in support of putting the matter to voters in 2016. Earlier this week two local businesses announced they'll raise their hiring wage to $12 per hour voluntarily and several others rallied in support of the move.

Volunteers for 15 Now Oregon will be collecting signatures in 20 cities and towns across the state on Saturday, September 26 in their quest to get more than 88,000 of them by July 2106, according to Jamie Partridge, a chief petitioner on the ballot initiative to raise Oregon's minimum wage. Their goal is to put the matter to voters in November 2016.

Low-wage workers and community leaders will speak at 11:45 on Saturday at the McDonald's in downtown Portland at 1035 SW 6th Ave. before signature gatherers hit the streets.

"Studies from Alliance for a Just Society, University of Washington, MIT, and others all show that to attain self-sufficiency... low-wage workers in Oregon need to earn at least $15 per hour, not just in Portland or Eugene, but in rural Oregon as well," 15 Now Oregon activist Justin Norton-Kertson wrote in an email. "A statewide $15 minimum wage will mean raises for over 700,000 working Oregonians, and will inject billions of dollars into Oregon’s economy."

Some businesses are getting a head start on the push to increase the minimum wage. On Thursday, New Seasons CEO Wendie Collie announced the company will raise its starting wage for workers to $12 beginning in January 2016 and says the company supports a statewide increase to $15.

"Individual employers like New Seasons cannot reasonably move to $15 on their own unless there is community-wide public policy that ensures a level playing field for business competition," Collie wrote in an email to the Mercury. "New Seasons remains committed to providing a total compensation package (including wages, benefits, profit shares and discounts) that leads the industry, and supports their staff being able to live and thrive in the communities where they work."

Portland's ¿Por Qué No? has also raised it's starting wage to $12 and was among several local businesses—including Grand Central Bakery, HOTLIPS Pizza, Looptworks, Neil Kelly, and The Joinery—that joined New Seasons in endorsing the push for increasing the minimum wage.

“We know that one local business’ employee is another’s customer - when people are paid more and can afford to buy more, the positive effects are seen throughout the community,” says Patrice Stankavich, Human Resources Director for Grand Central Bakery.