Seattle voters just elected two politicians who backed raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, so passing it should be a no-brainer, but, you know, this is politics. Becoming the first major city to make a leap like this on behalf of the lowest-paid workers is unlikely if corporations are the bigfoots of City Hall. And don't doubt that they'll try. The city's elected leaders, including Mayor Ed Murray and Council Member Kshama Sawant, are earnestly advancing the cause by listening to lots of stakeholders (as they should). They're gonna hear howls of opposition from an amalgam of businesses at the Chamber of Commerce and the usual fast-food behemoths, who will undoubtedly claim this bad for their bottom line. They'll inevitably pressure Murray and Sawant to reduce that wage, carve out unreasonable exceptions, or otherwise stymie the law.
But progressives have a tried-and-true classic strategy for victory: Build an organization of regular citizens who make a stronger, louder, more convincing case that better wages are good for the entire economy. And exert that influence on lawmakers.
That organization makes it's official debut on Sunday with a rally (an indoor rally, praise the lawd)—with a powerhouse of early endorsers.
Calling itself 15 Now, the group will be the populist counterpoint to those trying to suppress a minimum wage hike, and the rally Sunday (Jan. 12, doors 2 pm, Labor Temple, Hall One, 2800 First Ave.) will kick off a multi-month effort to raise cash and begin building neighborhood organizations that can lobby officials and, if needed, provide the backbone of a citizens initiative. If you want $15 an hour to be the law of that land, this is the event to attend.
Sterling Harders, vice president of SEIU 775NW; Dave Freiboth, executive secretary of King County Labor Council, AFL-CIO; Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Council member; Socialist Party member of the Irish Parliament for Dublin; Robby Stern, former co-chair of McGinn campaign; fast food workers and employees at the airport, and others who are being booked right now.
Early endorsers include: SEIU 775NW, SEIU Local 6, IBEW Local 46, IOUE, Washington CAN, Socialist Alternative, Transit Riders Union, Juan Bocanegra of El Comite, King County Council member Larry Gossett, Seattle School Board member Sue Peters, Burien City Council member Lauren Berkowitz, Normandy Park City Council member Stacia Jenkins, Tom Morello, who was formerly of Rage Against the Machine, former member of the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors Matt Gonzalez, 2012 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, and tons more.
Word has it that lots more big endorsers will sign on soon.
Some folks will say this rally is bluster, that it's talk and no action. That's an argument to ignore history. When it comes to achieving fair labor practices, forceful activism has been the driving force for a 40-hour workweek and better working conditions (to say nothing of demonstrations that helped fuel the the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, pot legalization, and scads of other social causes). Raising money, identifying leaders, training organizers, building social networks, and leveraging that into cogent advocacy are critical not only to giving lawmakers space to enact a $15 an hour wage—one that takes everyone's interests into account and strikes a sensible balance—but also for them to override those trying to stop it on specious grounds.