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Sponsors Of $15 Minimum Wage Bill Drop Oregon Initiative

People gathered in downtown Portland to support raising Oregon's minimum wage to $15 an hour.

People gathered in downtown Portland to support raising Oregon’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB

Sponsors of a ballot measure to raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $15 an hours in three years said Monday that they are dropping their effort.  

Justin Norton-Kerston, campaign manager for the initiative, said financial and voter support for the $15 measure dropped after the legislature adopted a slower and more gradual increase in the minimum wage.

“It’s hard to see a path forward” to run a successful ballot measure campaign, Norton-Kerston said.  A coalition of union groups earlier dropped their own measure to raise wages to $13.50 an hour and allow localities to approve bigger raises.

A recent statewide survey conducted for Oregon Public Broadcasting found that just 28 percent of voters would support the $15 initiative. The Feb. 22-25 telephone poll of 400 voters had a margin of error of 5 percentage points, plus or minus.

The survey showed that voters were closely divided over a three-tier minimum wage increase approved by the legislature and signed into law last week by Gov. Kate Brown. Forty-eight percent were in favor while 46 percent were opposed.                                      

That new law will raise the minimum wage over six years to $14.75 in the Portland area, $13.50 in medium-sized cities and $12.50 in 18 largely rural counties.

Norton-Kerston said $15-an-hour activists would continue to push for that wage level in the Portland area by arguing that it is the minimum that workers need to earn a living wage.  He said they would focus on union organizing and on persuading governments and non-profit employers to raise all of their wages to at least $15 an hour.

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