On Thursday, February 18, minimum wage and housing justice activists in Oregon descended on Salem to protest a weakened wage proposal and delayed renters’ rights legislation. $15Now Oregon – the state wing of the larger Fight for $15 movement sweeping the country – saw opposition over the last several months coming from the much more moderate Raise the Wage coalition and its $13.50 minimum wage proposal. The bill that passed the Oregon Legislature, which would raise the minimum wage to the highest in the country, would bring the minimum wage in Portland to $14.75 by 2022. This six-year process is dramatically slower than what organizers had been proposing, and it leaves smaller cities like Eugene to only $13.50 and the majority rural areas of the state at only $12.50.
At the same time, another bill aimed at providing modest extensions in the notification periods for “no-cause” evictions and protections from rent increases for new tenants was progressively weakened after meetings with landlord trade organizations before being sent back to committee.
Groups rallied around the common economic hardship that is hitting the working-class areas of Portland, as the massive influx of new resident has allowed developers and landlords to raise rents faster than in any other urban area in the country. $15Now was joined by Portland Tenants United, Don’t Shoot PDX, the Hazelnut Grove Houseless Community, the Portland Solidarity Network and other groups to talk about how the economic climate has been assaulting the most vulnerable in their communities. After activists stormed into the active legislative session to drop a banner that read “Housing S.O.S. Fight High Rent and Low Wages,” more than four dozen protesters occupied the entrance to Gov. Kate Brown’s office to demand local control over the minimum wage and rent control.