With about 250-300 ballots left to count, the ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15-an-hour in the city of SeaTac is leading by just 19 votes. It's lost a bit of ground since Tuesday's lead of 43 votes. But, win or lose, it could set a different standard for the debate around the minimum wage.
And as I wrote previously, win or lose, there will likely be a recount (one side would have to pay for it). And if the initiative passes, there is already a lawsuit by the we-prefer-slavery-to-decent-wages anti-initiative business backers.
I'm still hopeful the initiative will survive because it would be the most progressive win of this year's election night -- progressive in that workers will actually see a material improvement in their lives, and it won't be dependent on the good-will of a politician. It will be the result of organizing and a movement.
A win raising the minimum wage to $15-an-hour could refocus the debate over what the federal minimum wage should be. It's a bit unfortunate that progressives -- or at least those who actually don't work for the minimum wage -- seem quite satisfied to rally uncritically around what is a mediocre proposal -- $10.10 an hour -- being advocated by Democrats in the House and Senate, and supported by the White House.
Some are arguing: let's make the fight for $10.10-an hour a campaign issue in 2014.
Well, shame on them...because they will be defending a poverty-level wage and essentially embracing the robbery of workers. At $10.10-an-hour, a worker employed 52 weeks a year, "full-time", with no pension would earn $21,000--which is BELOW the federal poverty level for a family of four.
The federal minimum wage should be at least $20-an-hour, if you factor in productivity over the past 40 years. I've written about this for a number of years but here's a real economist's view, courtesy of the Center for Economic and Policy Research:
Between the end of World War II and 1968, the minimum wage tracked average productivity growth fairly closely. Since 1968, however, productivity growth has far outpaced the minimum wage. If the minimum wage had continued to move with average productivity after 1968, it would have reached $21.72 per hour in 2012–a rate well above the average production worker wage. If minimum-wage workers received only half of the productivity gains over the period, the federal minimum would be $15.34.[emphasis added]
Now, if you want to argue the politics of the issue i.e., that Democrats don't have the votes to pass anything higher -- more accurately don't have the imagination -- than $10.10, fine. But, then, at least, for heaven's sake, include in the rhetoric the truth:
That Republicans are willing to let millions of people live in poverty by refusing to bring the minimum wage above $20-an-hour, a wage that every worker has earned.
[I'll respond to any comments in a few hours when the sun rises in my time zone]