Campaign for $15 an Hour Moves One Step Closer to 2016 Ballot
Two Thousand Signatures Down, Only 120,000 Left to Go
On July 17, the campaign to raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $15 an hour delivered 2,000 signatures to Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins. That’s enough to get the proposal a title and move the campaign one step closer to being on the ballot in 2016.
“We should have a ballot title from the attorney general sometime this week,” says outgoing Statewide Organizing Director, Kristi Wright. “Then we get to decide if we like the language, or if we want to challenge it.”
If the language is accepted, then the process of gathering the signatures to get the measure on the ballot could begin as soon as early as next month.
“But we’ll certainly be collecting by September or October,” says Wright.
The campaign would need to gather 88,000 signatures to qualify for the 2016 election, but is shooting for 120,000 to account for any that are disqualified.
The 2,000 that were turned in represented twice the required amount for a ballot title, and only 200 of them were deemed invalid.
“That’s amazingly high,” says Wright. “I did not expect the validation rate to be that high.”
The high rate is something Wright attributes to excellent training of the volunteers on what questions to ask and how to properly fill out the forms, and to the universality of the campaign’s message.
“I think that principled stance, that no one who works should live in poverty, is what is capturing people’s attention,” she says.
The campaign also delivered signatures from all 36 of Oregon’s counties.
“Which I think is a first for ballot measures in Oregon,” says Wright.
A big part of the reason campaigns don’t hit all 36 is the challenge of gathering signatures from sparsely populated areas like Lake County and Oregon’s northeastern corner. But Wright says that a focus on rural counties and farmworkers has been a major focus in all that the campaign does, as they are all too often cut out of the legislative process and left to deal with the results of whatever decisions are made in the Willamette Valley, whose residents don’t face the same struggles.
“We’ve [rural counties like those in Southern Oregon] seen less of a recovery since the recession than our metropolitan areas,” says Evan Lasley, the campaign worker who will be taking over for Wright. “That effects us disproportionately.”
Both Lasley and Wright also point out how much the issue of rural poverty intersects with Oregon’s communities of color.
“More than 40 percent of the black population in Oregon lives in poverty,” says Lasley.
Another population disproportionately effected is Oregon’s youth, who are burdened with unprecedented student debt and fewer ways to escape from it.
“We want to be using this space that we have to really engage in bringing those issues together,” says Lasley.
“We see in this campaign that 15 is the start,” says Wright. “It’s not going to solve all the issues. But it begins a very important conversation.”