$15 an hour now (not eventually)
volume 35
issue 2
April 2014

Seattle has become a beacon of hope for low-wage workers as a movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour picks up steam. So it was quite a blow when Socialist Alternative (SA) and Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant announced that the organized campaign called 15 Now, which SA leads, is adopting a compromise: $15 now for some, and for others — later. The name of this accommodation to “pragmatic” capitalist politics is opportunism.

The compromise is meant to answer the objection that $15 an hour would be impossible for small businesses and nonprofits. So SA’s plan is to phase it in over several years for organizations and businesses like those.

This is a dodge from organizing a multi-issue fight for the $15 wage that would also take on Washington state’s tax structure, which hits workers and small businesses hard while letting big business off the hook. Why not a millionaire’s tax, as in New York City? More ideas for city council to champion were raised by Freedom Socialist Party candidate Linda Averill in 2005.

The compromise SA is initiating would sell out the lowest-paid workers, encourage government to subcontract to lower-paying nonprofits, and create a two-tier minimum wage structure that may well affect largely female workforces the most. Socialists are supposed to lead, yes — but not lead retreats, and certainly not before the battle is even truly joined.

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