By Jim Hightower
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, D.C. No, no. The same old corporate mentality of stripping any semblance of ethics from work still rules in that plutocratic roost.
I’m talking about Washington state, specifically the progressive forces of Seattle who just produced a landmark $15-an-hour minimum wage. Instead of just worrying 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.
“We did it — workers did this,” said Kshama Sawant.
A member of Occupy Seattle, Sawant is the tenacious, articulate leader of a large grassroots coalition of low-wage workers called “15 Now.” She won a City Council seat last year by building the case for the $15 wage floor.
In addition, Seattle 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 the nation’s highest minimum wage. Of course, the forces of corporate greed never sleep.
A group based in Washington, D.C., called the International Franchise Association is unleashing a pack of lawyers to sue the city in a bid to get a federal judge to nullify the will of local voters.
Clearly, the political fight isn’t over.
But Seattle’s leaders and workers have done us all 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.
This win is just the beginning of a new direction for the minimum-wage debate.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.