March 12, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 11

Director's Corner

March for $15 on March 15th

By Timothy Harris , Executive Director

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15Now. It’s not often that the left condenses a demand into 5 characters. And if that wasn’t cool enough, we now have the March for $15 on March 15th. Why are we marching? $15. When is the march? March 15, 1 p.m., Judkins Park. What do we want? 15Now!

OK. I can remember that. I’ll be there.

And whether you agree with the 15Now demand, you should be there. All macro-economic niceties aside, a fair day’s work should bring a fair day’s wage, and here in latte land, that’s probably around $15 an hour.

By now, the lines of this debate have been drawn in bold.

Seattle made history by electing a socialist. Recent polling shows 68 percent of voters support a $15 minimum wage. Now is the time. We are setting the standard for the nation. Anything less than $15 an hour in a high-cost area like Seattle is wage slavery.

And, if you don’t agree, you are simply on the wrong side of history. And history will remember your name.

From the other side, $15 will shut down essential human service programs and devastate small business. Hundreds more mentally ill homeless people will wander our streets, and the mother of all inflationary cycles will threaten life as we know it.

Cash-laden tourists will be left to make their own beds or defect to Vancouver, B.C. Our labradoodles will go unshaven. Our hangnails, as manicurists from South Seattle to Shoreline fold like cheap card tables, will multiply. Every fast food provider from Arby’s to Zeek’s will go broke or move to Renton.

Five years from now, when Pacific Place is boarded up and tumbleweeds drift across Westlake Center, we’ll all rue the apocalyptic folly of 2014.

Can we just take things down a few notches?

Seattle is an extreme city in a nation of extreme inequality. From the “Endless Views” of the condos of 1521 Second Ave. to the old news of the shanties of Nickelsville, our rich and poor coexist in uneasy tension. But we are not extremists.

We in Seattle like being on the front end of liberal reform. We are the pot-legalizing, gay-marrying, fair-wage favoring urban vanguard.

We will, after all is said and done, pass the new minimum wage that this city needs. And, as is generally the case in a democracy, not everyone will be happy.

Compromise will be reached, higher wage legislation will pass, and life will go on.

Meanwhile, the world divides into those who favor 15Now and those who don’t. The middle of the road, apparently, is for dead pigeons, squirrels and politicians.

I don’t have a crystal ball, but if I did, here’s what I’d expect to see.

Seattle’s political center will find the new bottom-line that voters will ultimately support. Many will say it’s not enough and will wage a ballot campaign for more. The threat of this will shift mainstream opinion leftward, as it already has.

And change, like it or not, will be incremental. The gyroscopic compass of neoliberalism’s race to the bottom will adjust accordingly, and the fight for fairness in a world that is anything but will go on. Every inch of ground gained or lost will be hard fought.

Seattle’s struggle for a fair wage represents just one battlefront in the ongoing war on the poor. In a world where Democrats in Washington, D.C., sell out food stamp recipients in the name of compromise, while state Republicans vote along party lines to gut homeless services, the war between the haves and have-nots will, like it or not, show up sooner or later on our streets.

But this much we know. The place to be on March 15 is with Seattle’s working poor, at Judkins Park, marching for 15Now. Because power concedes nothing without a demand. Never has. Never will.

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