A bold shift in America's minimum wage debate

At last, our political leaders in Washington are taking action for low-wage workers and the middle class, striking a bold blow for America's historic value of economic fairness.

At last, our political leaders in Washington are taking action for low-wage workers and the middle class, striking a bold blow for America’s historic value of economic fairness.

Gosh, I hope you don’t think I meant Washington, DC! No, no – the same old corporate mentality of stripping any semblance of ethics from the work ethic still rules in that plutocratic roost. Rather than DC, it’s Washington State I’m talking about, specifically the progressive forces of Seattle who’ve just produced a landmark $15-an-hour minimum wage. Instead of just talking about the widening gap of inequality and wishing Congress might give a damn about the millions of Americans being knocked down, the people of Seattle are providing national leadership.

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“We did it – workers did this,” said Kshama Sawant. A member of Occupy Seattle, she has been the tenacious, articulate leader of a large grassroots coalition of low-wage workers called “15 Now,” and she was elected to the City Council last year by building the case for the $15 wage floor. In addition, Mayor Ed Murray campaigned last year for raising the minimum to $15 – indexed to inflation – and this year he pulled together a 24-member working group of labor and business interests, which has spent four months hammering out details of the local ordinance. On June 2, all nine city council members voted to adopt it.

Of course, the forces of corporate greed never sleep, and a Washington, DC, group called the International Franchise Association is unleashing a pack of lawyers to sue the city, hoping a federal judge will nullify the will of local voters. So the political fight isn’t over, but the good people of Seattle have done all of us a big favor by moving the wage debate from the miserly, self-centered turf of the corporate bottom line to the moral high ground of social justice, where it belongs. Seattle is just the start of this movement.

“Seattle Approves $15 Minimum Wage, Setting a New Standard for Big Cities,” The New York Times, June 3, 2014.

“Seattle Announces $15 Minimum Wage, Highest In The U.S.” www.thinkprogress.org, May 1, 2014.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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