There is now little doubt: within a few hours, election officials will certify the passage of a $15-an-hour minimum wage in the city of SeaTac.
Via the AP:
King County officials are expected to certify the election today after counting some straggling votes that likely won’t change the outcome. The measure involving workers in and around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has steadily expanded its lead in recent days and held a 77-vote advantage after Monday’s vote count.
Here is the current and likely close-to-final vote count:
YES: 3,039 (50.64%)
NO: 2,962 (49.36%)
There could be a recount — though opponents would have to finance it (not a huge spend) — and there is a legal challenge ready to proceed so we aren’t out of the woods yet.But, I’ve been following this vote count and campaign since before and after Election Day because it has an important message:
Workers are entitled to a serious increase in the minimum wage.
“Serious” is not, in my opinion, $10.10 — the number being proposed in the Democratic Party’s current offer in a bill proposed by Tom Harkin and George Miller, the respective co-sponsors of the bill in the Senate and House. Good men, strong labor supporters.
BUT…If someone works 52 weeks a year, 40 hours a week at $10.10-an-hour (if they are that “lucky” at a minimum wage job to get that many hours), that adds up to a bit over $21,000 a year.
With no pension. Not a single day off. And probably no decent health care.
That $21,000 is BELOW the federal poverty level for a family of four.
Remember this: the federal minimum wage should be $21.72-an-hour if we factor in productivity, which is a fancy way of saying how hard people have worked (most negotiations over wages, at least in the days of normal collective bargaining — meaning not in the current environment of drive down wages and/or health care cost cuts — almost always tied wage gains to productivity).
The SeaTac victory should reset the conversation to a much higher federal minimum wage starting point.
At least, if the Democratic Party believes politics make $10.10-an-hour the best option, then, the rhetorical argument should be that the party is accepting keeping people in poverty only because of a willingness by Republicans/business to profit from poverty, and that the Democratic Party believes that $15-an-hour should be the starting point to reaching a $20-an-hour minimum wage within a short period of time.
The arguments against a dramatic hike ignore a simple fact: workers have been robbed of the right to be at a minimum $20-an-hour wage.
And, at the very least, progressives — including those who actually don’t work for the minimum wage but seem happy to praise $10.10-an-hour — should pick up the rhetorical banner and use the SeaTac victory as a rallying cry.