“Because rent doesn’t get paid by itself… we want $15 now! “
The fight for minimum wage increase that agitates the United States, with Black Lives Matter, is the largest uprising of the working class since the civil rights movement in the 60’s.
Seattle was the first city to increase the wage to $15 an hour in June 2014, followed by San Francisco in November of the same year. In 2015, it was New York and Los Angeles. It doesn’t stop there, St. Louis and Philadelphia may adopt this measure next year. The idea crossed the border and unions in British Columbia and Ontario have already launched their campaigns. The Alberta NDP was elected by focusing on this issue.
It’s impossible to list all the current struggles, but certainly this does not happen spontaneously. This movement was carefully constructed for nearly four years.
A long struggle
It’s the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which launched the movement 15 Now and a Union in 2012. Very quickly, it’s joined by other unions and social movements.
On November 27, 2012, more than one hundred fast food employees disengage in New York. On August 29, 2013, a day of action is organized in 60 US cities. On September 4, 2014, it’s more than 150 cities participating in the movement. The demonstrations will be punctuated by several actions of civil disobedience and arrests.
On April 15, 2015, actions are held in over 200 cities and will be qualified by the British newspaper The Guardian of « largest protest by lowwage workers in American history ». On May 2, 2015, hundreds of people blocked the headquarters of McDonald’s.
Election of a socialist in Seattle
Meanwhile, Socialist Alternative (SA) carries this claim in the political arena.
It will campaign with the slogan « Make Seattle affordable city » and three claims: $15 now for a rent control policy and a tax on the super-rich to fund public transportation and education. She was elected in November 2013 with 50% of votes.
Before the November election, SA had built a movement for $15. All Seattle neighborhoods had their Action Committee. This popular movement has become the backbone for the municipal elections. In June 2014, increasing to $15 was passed in Seattle.
The victory of Kshama Sawant and adoption, a few months later, of the minimum wage increase has had the effect of a thunderbolt over the United States and gave a boost to the movement.
An inspiration for Quebec?
No city has increased the minimum wage overnight. They go there by step with rises determined annually. For example in Seattle, employees to more than 500 companies will have $15 by 2017. The minimum wage will be $18.13 for all by 2025. While in Chicago, the minimum wage will increase from $8,25 to $13 in 2019.
One of the lessons we offer the movement for raising the minimum wage in the US is not to be limited to $15. If we want to do the same here, the $15 has to be a short-term goal, not an end in itself. Focus on one number gives the opportunity to employers to grant $15 in five years, to present it as a victory and thus clip the wings of the movement.
To propose increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour now, from the perspective of wage indexation to cost of living, could allow us to get substantial gains in some sectors in the short term. While killing in the bud the attempts of the bosses to spread wage increases abusively in time.
Still, it’s undeniable gains for millions of American workers who will see a significant jump in their purchasing power in the coming years. By bringing the issue of cost of living in the spotlight, the American left has managed to put the issue of social inequality at the center of political debate and force the ruling class to be defensive. It has also shown that organizing seriously on the basis of clear objectives, everything is possible.