Welcome to Oregon Action!

Oregon Action is a statewide, multi-racial community organization dedicated to social justice.  We assist people to organize on their own behalf – with a focus on low-income people, people of color and others with limited access to traditional structures of power and policy-making.

Through leadership development and community organizing, we provide the organizational base for participatory democracy, just communities and a fair economy. More about Oregon Action…


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New Jobs Don’t Pay Enough for Workers to Make Ends Meet

Oregon Action calls for raising the minimum wage in Oregon

PORTLAND, Oregon. — While Oregon has seen jobs added to our economy since the recession, the bad news is that nearly half of those new jobs openings don’t pay enough for full-time workers to cover their basic living expenses.

Today, Oregon Action is releasing “Low Wage Nation,” a national study showing that, contrary to rosy job growth reports, the projected new job openings in Oregon are in occupations that pay wages so low they keep families trapped in poverty. Jobs that do pay a living wage or better are scarce.

“If you are working full-time, your wages ought to cover basic living expenses, and that’s just not happening for many workers here in Oregon, said Darlene Huntress, Executive Director of Oregon Action. “ ‘Low Wage Nation’ paints a sobering picture of just how hard it is to find a living wage job here. It’s impossible for a family trying to survive.”

“Low Wage Nation” is part of The Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series produced by the Alliance for a Just Society.

A living wage is the hourly pay a worker must earn to cover basic expenses, with a little to put away for an emergency.

  • In Oregon, 49 percent of job openings pay less than $15.96 an hour, the living wage for a single adult working full-time. Nearly 85 percent pay less than $30.75 an hour, the wage needed for a single adult with two children to make ends meet.
  • For each job opening that pays at least $15.96 an hour, there are nine job-seekers on average. For a single adult with two children, there are 31 job-seekers for every job opening that pays enough to keep the family afloat.

“(In 2010), the only job I could find after many months of searching was at a Walmart. Although I worked as many hours as I could, and sold plasma for additional income, I could not afford to pay all my bills,” said Keith Haxton, an Ashland resident whose story was featured in the national report. “My car was repossessed, my phone was turned off, and my credit cards were cancelled. I quickly found that my Walmart wage could not support college attendance.”

“We have to take concrete steps toward addressing the systemic economic inequality that benefits corporations at the expense of working people, women, and people of color,” said Huntress. “And we also need to find immediate solutions that will improve the materials conditions of so many struggling Oregonians—like raising the minimum wage.  There are proposals in the legislature to do that and this report reflects an urgent need for legislators to act now.  Their constituents deserve a wage that allows them to meet basic needs and still put a little away every month for emergencies.”

“ ‘Low Wage Nation’ clearly illustrates a crisis in our country. Half of the new job openings nationwide pay wages that keep full-time workers trapped in poverty,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of Alliance for a Just Society. “A full-time job should lead to financial stability, not poverty.”

Oregon Action is a statewide, multi-racial community organization dedicated to social justice.  We assist people to organize on their own behalf – with a focus on low-income people, people of color and others with limited access to traditional structures of power and policy-making.

 Alliance for a Just Society is a national policy, research and organizing network with 15 state affiliates that focuses on health, racial and economic justice. The Alliance has produced Job Gap studies since 1999.

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A fair shot for all: addressing our low-wage crisis

Medford Mail Tribune, guest opinion published Sunday, January 17. 2015


By Michelle Glass

Why are wages in the Rogue Valley so low and what can we do about it?

A new research report sheds light on some of the causes and proposes some solutions.

Highly profitable global corporations such as Walmart and McDonald’s come into our valley, take our consumer dollars, and leave behind poverty wages for many of their workers.

These huge companies pay so little not because that’s all they can afford but because doing so means more profits for billionaire shareholders and bigger bonuses for top executives.

Take Walmart as an example. A detailed analysis by Fortune magazine found that Walmart could afford to raise workers’ pay by 50 percent without raising prices one penny. U.S. News & World Report presented a separate analysis reaching a similar conclusion — an average wage of $14.89 without any increase in prices.

The difference between what companies like Walmart could pay and what they do pay is money they are taking not only from workers and their families but from all of us.

It’s money that could otherwise be spent in local businesses, which in turn could pay their workers more and provide more jobs.

In addition, it’s money that taxpayers make up for by providing various kinds of public assistance that low-wage workers need just to survive because their pay is so low.

“The High Cost of Low Wages,” a new report from the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center (LERC), found that our state’s taxpayers spend over $1.7 billion per year to subsidize corporations’ reliance on an underpaid, low-wage workforce. The largest share of these deadbeat companies are large, profitable corporations in retail, fast food and health care, researchers found.

That subsidy from you and me contributes each year to the steadily increasing wealth of the members of the Walton family who inherited Walmart — a total that at last count was nearly $150 billion.

The report found that over 400,000 Oregonians — roughly 25 percent of the state’s workforce — are in jobs that pay $12 an hour or less. Nearly 197,000 workers must rely on public benefits to make up for their low pay. Researchers noted that while Oregon has one of the highest percentages of workers who have to turn to state assistance, it has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the country.

Low wages are a major reason that the “economic recovery” has bypassed many working Oregonians and gone straight to the wealthiest, with 95 percent of the income gains from 2009 to 2012 going to the top 1 percent in income. From 2002 to 2012, the bottom three-quarters of Oregon’s income earners saw their net income decrease.

In responding to the report, the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association defended companies such as McDonald’s, claiming that they are just a collection of local franchises that, in turn, pay so little because they operate on small profit margins. This argument was recently rejected by federal investigators who found that McDonald’s, which nets $5.5 billion in profits per year, dictates key terms to its franchises. Excess profits flow to the top of the corporate pyramid (where the CEO makes more than $9,000 per hour) instead of staying in our communities.

Fair Shot Oregon, a coalition of community and union groups, responded to the report by calling on the Oregon Legislature to take steps in this year’s session to start addressing the low-wage crisis in our state.

Some immediate steps include raising the minimum wage, ensuring that all Oregon workers earn paid sick days, making it easier to save for retirement, and ending employment discrimination against residents who have served their time in the criminal justice system.

While corporate officials often deflect a discussion about low wages by claiming that individual workers just need to get more education, almost half of those interviewed for the new report had at least some college training, yet were not able to find better paying jobs in line with their education. Those who seek more education also are likely to end up with crushing debt.

The low-wage crisis in the Rogue Valley and across the state affects all of us, as workers, families, small business owners and taxpayers. The first step is to recognize that low wages are partly a result of conscious corporate policies that can be changed with enough grassroots pressure. The next step is to urge our public officials to take practical action now.

Michelle Glass is the Southern Oregon regional organizer for Oregon Action, a grassroots organization focused on economic issues affecting working people.

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Be a Player for Single Payer

Be a Player for Single Payer Fundraiser
(Supports the February 11th Bus Trip to Salem)

Tuesday, January 27 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the beautiful Paschal Winery 1122 Suncrest Road in Talent (on the east side of 1-5)

Listen to live music by Broadway Phil Newton and Jake Thompson, Watch a short version of The Health Care Movie, Enjoy free food and a cash bar

See full flyer here: Be a Player for Single Payer – Sign

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What We Accomplished Together

Thank you for making 2014 a great year for advancing justice! We are so excited to share our 2014 organizing report with you. In the full report, linked here, you can read all the details as well as great stories from the people we’ve met and the leaders who have inspired us this year.

The infographics below contain highlights of what we accomplished together. But this is just the beginning. We hope you will join us by making a donation today or volunteering with us in 2015 as we work for a bold vision of justice for everyone right here at home.

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Sheriff’s sergeant calls LGBTQ people “abomination”

UCCMedfordLRPLogoHRSOPrideThis is a public response from the Medford Congregational United Church of Christ Church, Lotus Rising Project, Southern Oregon Pride, and Oregon Action.

A Jackson County patrol sergeant said in the Mail Tribune (Nov. 3, 2014) that the gay and lesbian members of our community are “an abomination.”

This follows his public statement a year earlier that personal beliefs, rather than the law and the constitution, would be his governing guide.

Please read the letters that are shown below. And then please do two things…

  1. Sign the online petition to Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters and County Commissioners Doug Breidenthal, John Rachor, and Don Skundrick (all of whom will be in office until January). The online petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/public-safety-and-equal-justice, also can be found via SOPride’s Facebook page.
  1. Forward this appeal to your own email lists and through Facebook and other social media.

As you can see, the petition calls on the sheriff’s department and the county to repudiate those statements and to publicly affirm that the county will value and respect everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, age, or any other factor.

Without clear public statements from Sheriff Winters and the county commissioners, we are left with the impression that gay and lesbian people who are stopped by sheriffs’ department employees or seek their help cannot assume that their safety and legal rights will be protected.

Thank you for your prompt action.

Letter to the editor published in Medford Mail Tribune, Monday, November 3, 2014

Bible is the guide

This is in response to Noni McCrillis’ (Sept. 25) letter. First, I’d wonder if the writer picks and chooses which parts of the Bible she wants to accept. Second, I’m not, nor are other Christians, trying to run anyone’s life; the Bible should be your guide for a correctly run life.

What I read in the Bible says a man and another man should not even be in the relationship described, calling it an abomination in Leviticus 18:22, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” So forget the issue of whether they should be allowed to be married. Further proof is in Romans 1:27, which states, “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”

So not only is it called an abomination, but unseemly. Like I wrote earlier, the right to marry or the definition of marriage is secondary, two men shouldn’t even be in this un-Biblical relationship.

Dace Cochran, Medford

Letter to the editor published in Medford Mail Tribune, November 3, 2013

Bible’s stance is obvious

This is regarding the letter from the Rev. Caren Caldwell in the Oct. 5 edition. As a minister, I would assume that the writer is familiar with the Bible and the obvious stance it takes on homosexuality.

Twice in Leviticus it is said, essentially, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.” I don’t know how the good Reverend gets around that, other than to say the ceremonies are joy-filled with excited and delighted attendees.

Well, taken to an extreme, let’s have pet owners marry their dog and cat. I’m sure the event would be a happy one with all the proper pomp and circumstance, but that doesn’t make it right and the state of Oregon wouldn’t recognize it.

The same goes for same-sex marriages. They’re wrong no matter how you spin them, recognizing the Bible as the ultimate authority in the matter. So don’t chastise me as unloving or legalistic, unless you can show me in the Bible where you can back your position up. As for my vote, I look forward to my no vote whenever it unfortunately and inevitably comes to that point.

Dace Cochran, Medford

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Obama’s Immigration Order a Tribute to Grassroots Action


Rally and Sit in for Immigration Reform at Rep. Walden’s Medford Field office. April 2014.

PRESS RELEASE                                                                                  

November 20, 2014


Michelle Glass – 541-292-8201 – michelle@oregonaction.org

Ricardo Lujan – 760-810-2121 – ricardolujan@live.com


Obama’s Immigration Order a Tribute to Grassroots Action

“The president’s action is a great victory for families in Oregon and nationwide who spoke out and shared their stories at great personal risk,” said Oregon Action regional organizer Michelle Glass. “It shows what we can accomplish through united grassroots action.”

“I’m so proud that we made our voices heard,” said Ricardo Lujan, a board member of Rogue Valley Oregon Action. “This is a big step toward justice.”

“While this is an important victory, we still need Congress to permanently fix our immigration system by providing a clear path to citizenship for immigrants who live, work, and pay taxes in this country,” Darlene Huntress, Executive Director of Oregon Action said. “A clear path to citizenship is supported by a large majority of Americans and would pass if Representative Walden and the rest of the Republican leadership would allow it to come to a vote.  Unfortunately, many politicians prefer to use immigrant families as a political ‘wedge issue’ instead of enacting reforms that would benefit all of us.”

Citizenship for immigrants who live and work in the U.S. would help raise pay levels not only for them but for all working people, which in turn would give them greater buying power to support local jobs and businesses.

According to a report, “Equity in the Balance,” released by the Alliance for a Just Society, only 31 percent of non-citizens in Oregon are paid enough for a single adult to make ends meet, and only 12 percent are paid enough for a single adult to support herself and two children.

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Oregon Action is a grassroots organization focused on economic issues affecting working people.

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Disappointed, but not Defeated

Last night’s defeat of Measure 88 is a hard moment for all of us. It is disappointing, it is disheartening, and it hurts.  The reality is that hard-working, taxpaying immigrants will continue to drive to work every day, just as they always have. And sooner or later, our state will reverse Tuesday’s decision and make sure they have driver’s cards and insurance. It is just a matter of time.

Politicians who cynically used this as a wedge issue will eventually find themselves on the wrong side of history, just as they have on the freedom to marry the person you love and a woman’s right to choose regarding her own reproductive decisions. Sometimes it takes several elections before progress wins out and political gamesmanship loses, but the day will come on this issue as it has on many others.

All is not lost.  We took some incredibly important steps over the past year in moving Oregon towards the state we envision, and we must keep moving forward.   Andrea Miller, the Executive Director of our partner CAUSA, perhaps said it best last night:

So while we are disappointed tonight, we are far from discouraged. The need for action is real, and the need continues. Measure 88 proved that there is a new and emerging voice in Oregon politics, a proud voice that can bring diverse groups together in ways never seen before in this state. A voice that understands that Oregon is much stronger together than it is apart. And it is one that is here to stay.”

I am proud of the work that Oregon Action did to support the passage of Measure of 88. We conducted more than 100 canvassing and tabling events in Southern Oregon for the Safe Roads Campaign in a little over four months.  We talked to thousands of voters across the state and were extremely encouraged by the positive conversations we had.  More Oregonians than ever before understand that we all will benefit by making it harder to exploit immigrant workers who are kept in legal limbo.  This is how change happens—one conversation at a time.

Here is what matters: 398,000 Oregonians voted to support the drivers card.  398,000 Oregonians that are with us and never going back.  This is no small number.  We are stronger today than we were a year ago, and we can build on that momentum and continue to change hearts and minds.  Oregon Action is fully committed to joining CAUSA, The Oregon Latino Health Coalition, and our many other incredible partners who will carry on this important work.  We know the journey will be hard sometimes, but that has never stopped us before and it surely won’t stop us now.  Too much is at stake and we simply aren’t going away.

Oregon Action is in this for the long haul.  We are keeping our boots on.  We will march on beside our immigrant brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors.  Thank you for all you have done and will continue to do to help us.


In solidarity,

Darlene Huntress

Executive Director,

Oregon Action

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Who’s standing up for women & working families?

Rogue Valley Oregon Action, SEIU, and Family Forward launches the Fair Shot campaign in front of the Medford Library

Since joining Fair Shot Oregon, we’ve been hard at work nailing down where the candidates running for office this fall stand on the issues facing women and working families in Oregon.

We sent out Fair Shot Oregon questionnaires. We attended election forums in communities across the state. We scoured voting records.

We’ve uncovered a lot about the candidates running in Senate District 3 and their views.

But we still have some questions that have gone unanswered.

So we’ve invited the candidates to a Fair Shot Town Hall, and we going to ask them once and for all: are you on the side of women and working families?

Can you make it? Here are the details:

Thursday, October 23rd
Southern Oregon University

RCC Presentation Hall
101 S. Bartlett St.

6-7:30 pm

Save your spot—RSVP now.

We’ve invited State Senate candidates Alan Bates and Dave Dotterrer have been invited to clarify their views on Fair Shot issues: living wages, equal pay, retirement security, paid sick time, and affordable women’s health care.

This is our chance to hear where they really stand on the issues—and hold them accountable.

Come and find out for yourself.  

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