As far as the rest of the country is concerned, Seattle is once again on its rightful path toward becoming an über-liberal paradise. In this edge-of-America place where City Hall throws open its doors for a grand festival of gay marriages and cops hand out Doritos to stoners at the local pot festival, our gay mayor just announced a proposal for a minimum wage more than twice that of the nation. Oh, yeah—and he did it on the morning of International Workers' Day, a few hours before the streets filled with diverse crowds advocating everything from an end to immigrant deportations to smash-the-state anarchy.
The Seattle wage-hike story made the front page of the Huffington Post and earned dueling think pieces in Slate and the Atlantic (Slate's was anti, the Atlantic's, written by a local wage-hike advocate, was pro). A piece in the UK Guardian was headlined "Seattle to debate $15 minimum wage law amid warnings of 'class warfare.'" The New York Times pointed out that Mayor Ed Murray's plan, "which in many other cities might be seen as a liberal Democratic agenda at the frontier of social and economic engineering," was, in this city, taking more heat from the left than the right.
That lefty heat, of course, was—and still is—coming from Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, whose election was, in itself, cause for an earlier round of national headlines, those focused on Seattle's history-making embrace of an unabashedly socialist candidate. It was arguably her November win that led to this minimum-wage moment of truth.
On May 1, when Mayor Murray announced his minimum-wage proposal at City Hall, hailing it as a compromise struck by members of a 24-person advisory committee that's been hashing it out since the beginning of the year, the plan was actually met with more confusion than outrage. A four-tiered proposal, phasing in different categories of employees to a $15 wage over seven years, and then taking another three for all the different categories to catch up to each other's inflation adjustments? It wasn't exactly the concise two-word demand for "15 Now" that we've heard from Sawant and seen on T-shirts and yard signs in Seattle all year.