Labor collecting signatures for initiative to boost minimum wage

SALEM - Petitions for the Oregon AFL-CIO-supported minimum wage hike are being circulated for signatures - but more volunteers are needed to collect the autographs.

Initiative 88 would raise the state's hourly minimum wage from $6.50 to $6.90 on Jan. 1, 2003, then would allow for annual adjustments to keep pace with inflation based on the annual increase in the cost of living.

The last increase in the minimum wage was in 1998. That came thanks to a 1996 labor-sponsored ballot measure that boosted wages from $4.75 an hour to the current rate, which at one time was the highest in the nation.

Since then, Oregon's minimum wage has fallen to the lowest on the West Coast. Washington's minimum wage is $6.90 an hour and indexed for inflation, while California stands at $6.75 an hour.

"One of the best things we can do to boost Oregon's economy is to give a raise to its lowest-paid workers," said State Representative Diane Rosenbaum, a chief petitioner of I-88 along with Gene Pronovost, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, and State Representative Dan Gardner, vice president of Electrical Workers Local 48. Rosenbaum is a member of Communications Workers Local 7901.

The Minimum Wage Committee must collect 67,000 signatures by July 5 in order to qualify for the November ballot. It is using a combination of volunteers and paid signature-gatherers (who are paid by the hour.)

Petitions are being circulated in tandem with the Oregon AFL-CIO's Initiative Integrity Act (Initiative 143), a constitutional amendment that would clean up the signature-gathering process for initiatives by banning pay based on the number of signatures obtained on a petition.

Organized labor is seeking volunteers to collect signatures at the Starlight Parade Saturday, June 1, and at the Rose Festival Parade Saturday, June 8. To volunteer, call the Oregon AFL-CIO at 503-224-3169.

Initiative campaign contributions can be sent to: Minimum Wage Committee, P.O. Box 1005, Salem, 97308.

May 17, 2002 issue

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