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Oregonians Could See Dueling Minimum Wage Hikes On The Ballot

Minimum wage noticed for Oregon and Washington
Minimum wage noticed for Oregon and Washington

Oregon voters could see competing minimum-wage initiatives on their 2016 ballot. A group that favors a hike to $13.50 per hour kicked off their signature gathering campaign Monday.

The union-backed initiative would raise Oregon's statewide minimum wage from its current $9.25 per hour to $13.50 an hour over the next two years. A separate campaign started by Portland activists is already gathering signatures to try to force a vote on a $15 per hour minimum wage.

Both campaigns can offer reasons for why their number is better. But publicly they're supportive of the other's efforts. Andrea Paluso, executive director of the advocacy group Family Forward Oregon, is part of the group vying for $13.50 per hour.

"I think we're all trying to work toward the same solution, which is a major wage increase for Oregon's workers in 2016,” she said.

Both campaigns say they'd prefer that Oregon lawmakers take on the issue when they meet in February. The legislature took no action on minimum wage proposals earlier this year.

Oregon's current minimum wage is the second highest in the nation behind Washington state's. The national inflation index which determines whether Oregon's wage will increase was flat this year, meaning minimum wage workers won't see a state-mandated raise next year.

Low-wage workers in Washington will find out later this week how much their state’s minimum wage will go up next year to account for inflation. Washington's minimum wage is currently $9.47 per hour.

Some cities such as Seattle and SeaTac already have a higher minimum wage. Oregon law does not allow cities and counties to set their own minimum wage.

Copyright 2015 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.