3:58 p.m. PDT September 26, 2015
Oregonians for 15, an organization working to raise the minimum wage statewide, organized volunteers in more than 20 cities throughout Oregon to collect signatures Saturday to put the proposed wage on the ballot.
The volunteers were collecting signatures for Petition 41, which would raise the minimum wage in Oregon to $15 per hour over three years. It would increase to $11.50 in 2017, $13.25 in 2018, and $15 in 2019.
Saturday was the first of many volunteer signature gathering events planned throughout the state.
Supporters said studies from Alliance for a Just Society, University of Washington, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others conclude low-wage workers in Oregon need to earn at least $15 per hour to attain self-sufficiency for themselves and their families — not just in Portland and Eugene, but in rural areas as well.
A statewide $15 minimum wage would mean raises for more than 700,000 working Oregonians and would inject billions of dollars into Oregon’s economy, reports said.
“People in Oregon are really excited about getting $15 on the ballot,” said Justin Norton-Kertson, an organizer for 15 Now Oregon. “Dozens of volunteers are out today… taking action to help make that happen.”
In Salem, Norton-Kertson led nine volunteers who gathered at the Ike Box coffee shop downtown. They walked around the public library, Salem Saturday Market, Salem Center and other downtown destinations, seeking signatures.
“It really shows how widespread the fight for $15 has grown here in Oregon,” he said.
Supporters statewide need to collect more than 88,000 valid signatures by July 1, 2016, in order to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.
The petition sheets from Salem and other participating cities will be sent to Portland and given to the chief petitioner to be counted and tracked.
Norton-Kertson said they probably won’t submit any of the signatures until they have at least 100,000, which he hopes will be around the end of the legislative session in late February or early March.
From an initial count in Salem, the volunteers collected 275 signatures on Saturday. Norton-Kertson said it was definitely a success.
He added that a statewide count might take a while because those organizing don’t have groups going out in small towns or cities, but rather a few individuals who contacted the organizers went out on their own.
“We will have quite a few phone calls to make to try and connect back with those folks to ask them how many we collected,” Norton-Kertson said.
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