It’s a bright new day for workers in the Emerald City. Shutterstock
The Seattle City Council’s unanimous decision to impose the highest minimum wage in America is a momentous leap toward lifting workers out of poverty and closing the constantly widening gap between the 99 and the 1 percent. And most importantly, it has set a pivotal precedent for a country struggling with crippling income inequality.
The incremental increase over several years will benefit about one quarter of Seattle’s workforce, particularly women and minorities, as it raises the lowest pay to more than double the federal minimum wage. The vote is expected to give momentum to campaigns across the U.S., from San Francisco and Chicago to New York state, to raise the incomes of minimum wage workers after Republicans in Congress blocked President Obama’s proposal for a national increase.
But Seattle’s law will be closely watched for its economic impact and for threatened legal action by local franchises of fast food corporations, such as McDonald’s and Subway, some of the largest employers of low paid workers in the city, which are seeking to be classified as small businesses in order to win more years to implement the increases.
Kshama Sawant, the only socialist city councillor in the U.S., whose election campaign last year became a driving force behind the minimum wage legislation in Seattle, hailed the vote at a boisterous meeting before a packed council chamber as a “historic victory” for working people.
“A hundred thousand low-wage workers in Seattle will be seeing their wages raised to $15 an hour over the next 10 years. That would imply a transfer of roughly $3bn from the top to the lowest paid workers. Such a transfer has not happened in so many decades because mostly what’s happened is the flow of wealth has been from the bottom up. This is really raising the confidence of working people around the country,” she said.
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata