15 Now PDX: Weekly “Living Wage Wednesday” Rallies

15 Now Portland has been very busy this spring. Although he was not able to unseat 16-year incumbent Dan Saltzman, independent socialist candidate Nicholas Caleb ran for Portland city council on a platform based largely around the fight for a $15 minimum wage and got a great echo for his campaign.

Caleb’s campaign, along with the establishment of 15 Now and Socialist Alternative chapters in town, have brought the living wage issue to the forefront in Portland. 15 Now PDX has been holding weekly “Living Wage Wednesday” rallies outside of city hall calling on the council to take action to end poverty wages, and to embrace a $15 minimum wage.

On May 15 roughly 40 people marched into the downtown McDonald’s and read a letter aloud to the workers, customers, and bosses in solidarity with the global strike of fast food workers. Largely influenced by the 15 Now movement, and the Caleb for Council campaign, councilman Saltzman even announced that he is in favor of raising the minimum wage.

However, thanks to the restaurant lobby, since 2001 Oregon state law has preempted cities from raising the minimum wage locally. This means that any effort for $15 will require a coordinated statewide effort, or a repeal of the state’s preemption.

On June 11th, members of 15 Now PDX will give a brief testimony in front of the city council highlighting the need to raise the minimum wage, and to present them with 1,000 signatures in support of a $15 minimum wage. We know that real change doesn’t come from the top, it has to be demanded from below.


15 Now Columbus Ohio

15 Now Columbus held its first action three months ago on March 15, organizing a small demonstration in the fast-food district bordering the campus of Ohio State University. Some who took part drove nearly 100 miles to do so, and most met each other for the first time that day. To publicize the event during the preceding weeks, a volunteer rode city buses handing out leaflets and gathering contact information from interested passengers.

During the month of April, the Central Ohio Worker Center brought 15 Now volunteers and Socialist Alternative members together with numerous other organizations to plan the city’s most well-attended May Day event in many years. The theme was “Ohio Needs a Raise,” and large number of the 150 signs carried through the downtown streets on May 1 called for a $15 minimum wage.

Following the rally and march, the celebration continued at the Ohio Education Association (OEA/CEA) union hall, with speakers, tabling, conversation, and food. Many who attended demanded continuing action in support of a living minimum wage.

On May 15, 15 Now Columbus facilitated a meeting attended by 24 workers, activists, and union representatives interested in organizing support for raising the minimum wage to $15. Afterwards, several marched in solidarity with the international day of strikes.

The summer will be spent publicizing the movement throughout the city and at ComFest, where 15 Now will table and make several presentations onstage to the large audiences in attendance. 15 Now Columbus meets each month on the 15th. If you live in the area and want to get involved you should join us!


The 15 Now campaign is growing in New York City!

The 15 Now campaign is growing in New York City! After the victory in Seattle we quickly saw the Speaker of the City Council suggest she also supported $15. Yet Seattle showed that we can’t rely on promises from politicians but have to build pressure from below. With a movement we can push ‘Tale of Two Cities’ Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council to act.

We have held major interventions across the city. 15 Now marched in the “St. Patrick’s Day for All” Parade and we have held two energetic rallies and marches, joined by Green Party candidate for Governor Howie Hawkins who has made $15 a key demand in his race for governor.

On May Day, 15 Now organized a solid contingent in Union Square for a day of activities and took part in a noisy march shutting down parts of Manhattan. On May 15th, we joined striking fast food workers at high-energy, internationally publicized protests.

The response to 15 Now has been very positive in New York. Although the State of New York holds the power to set the minimum wage, in order to win the endorsement of the labor-backed, left-leaning Working Families Party, Governor Cuomo promised this would be changed. This represents a big opportunity for the campaign.

15 Now NYC plans to continue gaining petition signatures, gaining endorsements, and building a movement to demand $15. It is still the beginning of our NYC campaign but we look forward to building immense momentum over the summer. We think NYC will be a city that is truly inspired by the victory in Seattle.


15 Now has generated excitement across the spectrum in Philly

Median income in Philadelphia hovers at $31,000 per household or about $15/hr.  With over 30% of the city living in official poverty and 12% in deep poverty, an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15/hr would completely transform the city and region.

15 Now Philly launched in February  with our first action on International Women’s Day .  15 NowPhilly paved the way for a coalition with the SEIU fast food organizers at Fight for 15 and a statewide coalition called Raise the Wage PA.

Through April and May, 15 Now Philly hit the streets with a petition aimed at local and state politicians.  This petition for 15 was met with tremendous enthusiasm and opened conversations with more than 1,500 community members laying the groundwork for a broad campaign.

At our first Open Assembly on Tuesday, May 20th we moved to launch three neighborhood committees in South, North and West Philly.  These meetings will form the backbone of 15 NowPhilly action groups and further strategy to agitate and organize.

The critical strength of 15Now Philly involves our diverse organizing committee including  low wage workers from fast food, retail and home health aid industries.  15 Now has generated excitement across the spectrum in Philly.  We’re ready for real change and a new way forward for working people.Now we can point to the success of Seattle to show people that it’s possible to win.


The fight for a $15 is heating up in Massachusetts

Jack Zhang

The fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage is heating up in Massachusetts. Thanks to the workers who paused to sign our petitions, 15 Now New England has collected almost all the signatures required by the state to put a non-binding $15 an hour question on the ballot in six districts.

Our petitioning events have opened up a dialogue with our fellow workers about the minimum wage and the rising cost of living. Almost everyone agrees that the current minimum wage of $8 an hour is too low. In Massachusetts, there are several minimum wage initiatives, including Raise Up Massachusetts’s $10.50 proposal and the Massachusetts state senate’s $11 bill.

This would be a step forward but only small one. Neither of those figures represent a living wage. In a city like Boston, $15 is just the starting point for livable, and that’s cutting it close. Working people signing our petitions have mentioned this key point to us again and again: they agree with other minimum wage initiatives because any increase is good, but those initiatives don’t even come close to a living wage.  That’s why low-wage workers all over the country are demanding 15.

To empower the working people of the districts we’re campaigning in and build the foundations of a movement. 15 Now New England has started monthly neighborhood meetings in Boston. Our first neighborhood meeting has been held in Dorchester. Neighborhood meetings in East Boston, Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury are scheduled for next month. We anticipate having some in Worcester and Lowell as well, two cities in which we are also collecting signatures.

These neighborhood meetings are open to the broad public. We encourage participants, especially newcomers to 15 Now, to lead the discussion and speak up about community problems.  Seattle showed us that empowering working people to take matters into their own hands is the way we can win.


15 Now is on the ground in New Jersey

On June 26 New Jersey 15Now Chapter rallied with the “War Against Poverty” coalition in Trenton, NJ.

To get involved with this growing movement in New Jersey contact us on Facebook.

New Jersey statewide 15Now planning meeting on July 23rd at 12Noon in the AFT building on Rutgers campus.  More info here


15 Now Movement in Wisconsin Intensifies

15 Now Movement in Wisconsin Intensifies

On Thursday, June 26th, the Dane County (Madison and surrounding suburbs) Board of Supervisors voted to place a nonbinding referendum to raise the minimum wage to $10.10/hr in November. 15 Now and allies packed the house with 50 supporters and argued passionately during the public testimony for the Supervisors to amend the resolution to $15 an hour minimum wage. Joining this demand were members and leaders of local unions like the TAA, AFT 4848, AFSCME (locals 171, 2412, 60), IWW, Green Party, Progressive Dane, 9to5, National Organization of Women, Socialist Alternative and the ISO.

15 Now supporters pointed to the clear data that shows a $10.10 minimum wage, while a welcomed step forward, is still a poverty wage statewide in Wisconsin, not just Madison and Dane County. In 2011,more than 1 in 5 Wisconsin workers held a poverty wage (defined as under $10.97/hour) job.

 Winning $15 in Wisconsin will take a strong grassroots movement.  Please donate $15, $25, $50, $100 today to end poverty wages! Help us raise $29,000 to hire a full time organizer for Wisconsin.

Supporters of $15 minimum wage testified both as activists and from their own personal struggles as low wage workers, as single parents with multiple low wage jobs, as college grads with massive loads of student debt and no real prospect for living wage jobs and much more. We laid out statistics and hard-nosed data that decimated the ridiculous notion that $10.10 an hour is enough to live on.

We also pointed out how the Democratic Party at a national level and their candidate for WI Governor, Mary Burke, are backing a $10.10 minimum wage to manage the interests of their corporate paymasters over that of working people because a $10.10 minimum wage is wholly insufficient.

Virtually no one spoke against the idea of a $15 wage in principle. Speakers who defended $10.10 restricted their points to questions of strategy. Their arguments focused on the dubious notion that this is a stepping stone to voting for $15 in the future and that this is a state-wide effort and we have to be in line with what’s being put forward in the other counties.

15Now and our allies made a clear impact in moving the debate forward. We spurred Supervisor Al Matano to introduce an amendment for $15, seconded by Sup. Michelle Ritt and voted in favor by several in a voice vote (which made it hard to tell who all voted yes). Sup. John Hendrick introduced another amendment to add a question along lines of asking voters: “Should state of Wisconsin allow Dane County to raise its minimum wage to $15/hr.” Both unfortunately failed, and the measure passed as originally written, but we live to fight another day. We are moving forward from a higher vantage point and will look to build much greater grassroots support and organization in the fight for a $15 minimum wage.

The experience confirmed the absolute need to build a strong grassroots movement and not rely on the Democratic Party to represent our interests  The inspiring victory of $15 in Seattle shows that we organize – we can win!


You can watch video of the County Board meeting here