When the editors at Yes! Magazine first asked me to write a piece on Seattle’s $15 minimum wage struggle, I initially joked that they’d have to change their name to No! Magazine, because, you know, I don’t have much of a portfolio writing upbeat, forward looking pieces on local politics. But in fact, if there’s ever a political story to instill optimism, it’s “$15 and Change: How Seattle Led the Country’s Wage Revolution…”
Shortly after 11 p.m. that night, May 29, 2013, Durocher walked off her $9.19 an hour job to become the first fast-food worker in Seattle to strike for a $15 an hour minimum wage. The next day, hundreds of Seattle fast-food workers and their supporters followed her lead, temporarily shutting down as many as 14 restaurants to chants of “Supersize our salaries now!”
It was an outrageously ambitious goal—a 64 percent pay hike to more than twice the federal $7.25 an hour minimum wage. Yet only one year and four days later, the Seattle City Council met their demands, unanimously approving the first $15 minimum wage in the nation. Seattle’s path to a $15 minimum wage is a winding tale of effective organizing, smart messaging, bold experimentation, opposition missteps, and blind dumb luck. It is also a roadmap for bypassing our nation’s partisan gridlock by rolling out a broader progressive agenda one city at a time.
You can read the whole thing in the latest issue of Yes! Magazine, available online and on newsstands now.
It’s maybe not the smoothest piece I’ve ever written, but that’s totally my fault—I turned in a kajillion more words than they asked for (I originally included a historical context that stretched all the way back to 1905, because I’m just like that), and so some of the narrative flow necessarily got lost in the editing. Still, I think I give a pretty good overview of how the fast food strikes, the SeaTac $15 minimum wage initiative, and Kshama Sawant’s unlikely victory all played off of and into each other to yield the larger victory, sowing the seeds for similar victories nationwide.
Give it a read and let me know what you think.
And if you’re wondering what else I’ve been doing to pay the bills since leaving The Stranger, well, I’ve got news to share soon on that front too, as well as what it might mean for the future of HA. Stay tuned.