Issue #224

Compromising won’t help get to $15 Now

It’s the dog days of a Seattle winter, and tempers are growing short. The initial enthusiasm for a $15 an hour minimum wage remains strong, but it has been joined by a more contentious hashing out of the details of how we get there—and who is included. 68% of Seattle voters have indicated they support a $15/hr wage floor. More specifically, they support getting there as soon as possible, and covering as many workers as possible without exclusions or loopholes. Raising the wage is clearly popular. But it’s not easy. As the prospect of a $15/hr wage looms, concerns are being voiced by small businesses such as Elliott Bay Books, afraid it will force them to close their doors. Those concerns are causing some supporters of a higher wage, sympathetic to these local retailers, to call for compromise even if it means excluding large swaths of working Seattle. After all, good urbanism includes a strong base of locally owned businesses. It’s an understandable reaction. Yet it is still wrong. Fighting for a higher wage is about more than battling large corporations and hesitant elected leaders. It’s also about taking on nearly 40 years of right-wing economic dogma that is largely responsible for stagnating wages in the first place. The notion that workers’ wages must suffer for business to thrive is a false one, but after four decades of it being pounded into American minds by relentless right-wing messaging, even “progressive” Democrats have come to believe it is true. Robert Cruickshank, The Urbanist, 3-10-14.