As of Saturday, May 10, 2014
To the editor:
(Edited for length.)
Last week marked a tremendous victory for workers, as Seattle mayor Ed Murray announced his plan to phase in a $15 an hour minimum wage for the city.
The idea behind a “smart 15” is to phase in bigger businesses more quickly than small ones with limited capital supplies, and to allow a temporary partial deduction for tips and certain forms of health benefits. The plan represents a middle way between opposition by certain business leaders, and the more abrupt plan favored by Councilor Kshama Sawant — an approach which might be a little too abrupt for some.
While imperfect, the mayor’s proposal is unprecedented, considering that the whole idea of a $15 minimum wage seemed laughable just one year ago.
And the “ripple effect” is already spreading: voters here in Oregon’s 2nd Congressional district, who favor a nationwide $15 wage, have a choice on the ballot by the name of Barney Spera. A retired union worker from Ashland, Spera doesn’t hide his anger over decades of inequality and stagnant wages, and his signature campaign pledge is to fight for 15 at the federal level.
Momentum for smaller hikes in the minimum wage is bound to grow — including an opportunity to raise all of Oregon to $12 an hour in today’s dollars.
The real lesson that this campaign has taught is critical: real systemic change comes not from electing a president every four years, but from brave grassroots struggles and bold demands from below.