May 2016: From Michael’s Desk

By Michael Dale, Executive Director

With presidential and gubernatorial elections and multiple measures on the ballot, this fall will be a very busy election.  I want to flag three Oregon ballot measures that would do very serious harm to low-wage workers if we allow them to slip by and pass: IP 40 (Making English Oregon’s Official Language), IP 51 (Limiting Voting Rights), and IP 52 (Mandating E-Verify).

Making English Oregon’s Official Language. IP 40 would hamstring the ability of Oregon’s public agencies to create a welcoming atmosphere and to provide basic services to those who do not read and write English.  It would require that all government information and documents - including those at schools - be published only in English. No government agency could require that job applicants be competent in a language other than English. To intimidate public officials and employees, the measure would allow Oregon residents to sue when they believe the law has been violated. The lack of clarity in this measure will undoubtedly generate unproductive and costly lawsuits.

Limiting Voting Rights. IP 51 is a blow against the successes we’ve had at the legislature in giving low-wage Oregonians a raise and paid sick leave. The idea behind it is to limit who can vote so that more pro-business legislators will be elected. This initiative would cancel every Oregonian’s voter registration and make it incredibly difficult and time consuming to re-register, reducing the number of acceptable IDs and making it harder for youth, the elderly and low-income voters to register. It would reverse Oregon’s recent successes in eliminating barriers to voting.

Mandating E-Verify. IP 52 would create a new system of bureaucracy that Oregon’s small businesses must follow. By requiring all Oregon businesses to adopt a flawed and inaccurate federal program, everyday workers might find themselves out of a job, and businesses could lose employment licenses altogether.

These ballot measures are being supported by Oregonians for Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group, and by out-of-state millionaire Loren Parks. They do not reflect Oregon's values of equity and inclusion. They would set back the cause of working people, and especially low-wage workers.

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